A smart revamp of Tralee town centre, nearing completion, has left the town’s taxi operators feeling pushed aside by a pedestrian-focused project.
A bitter stand-off is continuing with the local authority in Kerry’s county town as bye-laws for taxis go to public consultation.
Up to €1.7 million of street works is transforming the central Mall and offering priority to pedestrians, while cycle tracks are being provided in Denny Street which will also affect vehicular parking.
The regeneration works are forcing taxis to the periphery of the town centre — a busy loading and shopping area near Tesco and the Abbeycourt area at the rear of the town square.
The taxi drivers are firmly opposed to the changes.
Two years ago, when the original redesign was drawn up, the taxi drivers were to have 14 spaces on Denny Street.
However, there was a change of mind, reportedly following objections by a traders group, the drivers claim.
“When the works started up, we ended up being shifted to the Tesco area car park,” the chair of the Tralee Taxi Association, Terry Boyle, said.
Three taxis, it has been claimed, have now been damaged by people reversing into them in the busy parking and loading bay area space.
Mr Boyle said the public did not want to go to the area, especially at night, and the taxi drivers said they are taken aback at the amount of anti-social behaviour they witness.
“There really is a simple solution: a visible presence in the town centre.
“Give us the existing feeder lane in Shaw’s Lane and two or three more spaces on Bridge Street. And give us Denny Street between the Arch and the Croppy Boy, as originally planned.” Mr Boyle suggested.
Taxis are also seeking two bays near Heatons on the Mall “so we can be seen”, Mr Boyle said.
Before taxi de-regulation in 2013, there were 17 taxis in Tralee.
Now, after a peak of 160, the number in Tralee stands at 104.
Until the mid-1990s the taxis had a stand on Denny Street, Mr Boyle said.
Currently, against the council’s wishes, they have returned.
Seven or eight taxis currently line up, double parked. And the drivers vow they will stick to the spot.
According to the taxi drivers, the dispute is becoming “bitter”.
They claim the council arrived at 5am on one occasion to relocate street furniture and erected steel barriers adjacent to some cafes and premises, to stop the taxis parking.
“The council are unreal We are getting a desperate time,” said one working driver, in Denny Street.
Some have been penalised with parking fines while, it was further claimed, council staff and gardaí have ordered taxis to “move on”.
The proposed by-laws, due to be decided by councillors next month, will locate eight taxi spaces in the Tescos and Abbeycourt area, against the drivers’ advice.
A spokesman for Kerry Co Council said: “Taxis are not permitted to park up and seek custom at locations other than designated taxi ranks.
“There is no designated taxi rank at Heaton’s or at the top of Denny Street.
“Accordingly, taxis parked at the top of Denny Street/Heaton’s should not be pulled up there.”
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