National Transport Authority sends Uber Ireland’s plans into reverse

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has put the brakes on Uber’s planned introduction of its ride-sharing service in Ireland despite the company expressing confidence over its future here last week.

The San Francisco-headquartered company which allows users to request a ride via a smartphone app before matching them with an available Uber driver has sought legislative change to launch its full range of services in Ireland.

To date, Uber’s Irish services have been restricted to using licensed taxi drivers to provide rides to customers whereas its business model typically utilises unlicensed drivers.

Users can review drivers’ profiles and rate them after the journey.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner last week, Uber Ireland general manager Kieran Harte said that the company remains in “positive discussions with all stakeholders with regards to the framework needed to scale the business in Ireland”.

The company remains “fully committed” to its Limerick centre and is confident of the future of the business in Ireland, Mr Harte added.

A spokesperson for the NTA has said, however, that it does not anticipate making any change to existing legislation to facilitate Uber.

The ride-sharing model used by Uber and competitors such as Lyft would “not comply” with Irish legislation governing small public-service vehicles.

This is not expected to change, the spokesperson said.

“The ridesharing transport model, operating in certain jurisdictions outside Ireland, has been to use vehicles and drivers which, and who, do not hold the conventional licences required for taxis or hackneys for the carriage of persons for reward,” said the NTA spokesperson.

“That model of operating commercial services for hire without licences is not a model that would comply with primary legislation in Ireland, and it is not anticipated that small public-service vehicles legislation will be amended in this regard.

“Uber Ireland Technologies Ltd is licensed by the National Transport Authority, as a small public-service vehicles dispatch operator.

“Uber has categorically assured the National Transport Authority that, in Ireland, it contracts only with licensed drivers using licensed vehicles, together with operating the taximeter and remaining within the maximum fares order for taxi journeys as obliged at law.”

An Uber spokesperson was not immediately available to comment yesterday.

The position taken by the NTA could prove to be a major setback for Uber’s plans here.

Its reluctance to amend the legislation comes on the back of briefing documents prepared for incoming Transport Minister Shane Ross earlier this year advising against an overhaul of the law.

Civil servants advised that laws prohibiting unlicensed drivers carrying passengers on a commercial basis would have to be reversed to facilitate ride-sharing services.

They said it is hard to see how such a situation could “rationally co-exist with the existing system of regulation for taxis, hackneys and limousines”.

Taxi unions and regulators have railed against the company but it has found favour with customers, largely due to its user-friendly interface and often cheaper fares.


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