Taxi industry to face full review

A FULL-SCALE review of the taxi industry will be carried out to ensure better safety for consumers and regulation for drivers, Public Transport Minister Alan Kelly has said.

He announced the review after a Prime Time programme exposed a number of illegal practices.

Mr Kelly said gardaí must take a leading role in taxi industry enforcement and not leave it to the nine enforcement officers in the regulator’s office. He also said the system of monitoring and regulation of licences is not stringent enough, and that criminals with serious convictions are being allowed to operate legitimately.

The director of taxi regulation, Kathleen Doyle, said her office would be investigating two people on the basis of the programme.

These include a man who was renting out taxis without checking whether the person he was renting to had the relevant licence.

Prime Time’s reporter hired several taxis from this man without having to show a small public service vehicle (PSV) licence.

Independent inspections of two the taxis showed they were dangerous and defective.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Ms Doyle said her office would be “investigating this particular licence holder”.

In a second case, a woman in Co Louth was driving up to 13 schoolchildren in a car with only eight seatbelts. Her licence was also out of date.

Ms Doyle urged parents and schools, if they are engaging a taxi to carry up to eight children, to ensure it is insured. She also advised them to check the regulator’s website and its register of licence holders. If any taxi is engaged to carry more than eight they should check the driver has a large PSV and should contact gardaí.

“Under no circumstances is it acceptable for somebody to put a pile of children into a taxi. It’s totally unacceptable and we will be investigating that matter as well.”

Ms Doyle said the taxi regulator’s nine compliance inspectors did not check the safety of vehicles, which she said was a matter for the National Car Testing (NCT) Service and the gardaí.

The documentary also showed two cases of inspectors at the NCT centre in Fonthill, west Dublin, taking €100 bribes to pass cars that independent inspectors told Prime Time were unsafe.

An anonymous whistleblower — an inspector at an NCT centre outside Dublin — claimed this practice was “widespread”.

The company operating NCT, Applus, said it would vigorously investigate the complaints. Road Safety Authority chief executive Noel Brett said he had raised his concerns with the gardaí.

The programme found that one-in-seven taxi drivers — about 6,000 people — had a conviction.



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