Irish transport authorities must explore further options to incentivise taxi drivers to work more evenings and nights to ensure safe travel for passengers, according to Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins.
Deputy Higgins said the lack of available taxis has become a major issue in Dublin in recent months.
“It is particularly difficult to access a taxi in the evenings, regardless of whether it is a weekday or weekend. People have reported spending long times waiting on the streets after a night out trying to flag a taxi in person or through an app, often when hundreds of people are vying for a couple of taxis at any one time.
“Figures show an increase in drivers working morning and afternoon hours up to 4pm and a decrease in those working evenings and in the early hours of the morning, with the primary reasons for not working nights including personal safety (48%) and customer behaviour/extra cleaning costs (40%).
“The NTA’s 2022 driver survey found that just 29% currently undertake night work. Recent measures have been taken by the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Department to increase the number of taxis available to passengers, especially for people getting home at night.
“Actions taken include a 12% hike in fares weighted in favour of premium hours, such as weekend nights, Sundays and bank holidays and also an extension on eligibility limits on vehicle age limits.
“Figures provided to me show that in the period to end March this year, a total of 1,303 new SPSV driver licences were granted, which is a 58% increase compared to the previous 12 months (April to March 2022) and 63.8% of those relate to new drivers in Dublin.
“From January to December last year, 4,618 drivers renewed their licences, which is up 82% on the same figure for 2019, showing that more drivers are thankfully returning to the industry.
“Data shows that to the end of March, there were 14,754 Dublin licensed SPSV drivers, while the number of SPSV licensed vehicles nationally stood at 19,229.
“The improvement in licence renewals and licences granted is encouraging, but there is a fall-off in drivers working at peak evening periods, which is concerning as we come into the busy summer and tourist season.
“The Advisory Committee on SPSVs recently ruled out enabling the transfer of SPSV licences potentially between family members as a solution to boosting taxi numbers. The rationale was based on the principle that a licence should have no monetary value and should indicate a person’s suitability as a taxi driver, as decided by Revenue, An Garda Síochána and the NTA.
“I would therefore call on the NTA to go back to the drawing board in examining options to boost accessibility to taxis during peak periods and evenings, while acknowledging there should be no further increase in charges due to the pressure members of the public are facing with the cost of living.
“Neither drivers nor passengers are to blame for the lack of supply, and we need all stakeholders to come together to explore ways of boosting taxi accessibility.
“We cannot have a situation where passengers are put at risk because they can’t get home safely at night, and that goes for tourists visiting the capital and other Irish cities this summer too.”