Rise in taxi complaints due to deregulation, say union

ALMOST half of all complaints made against Dublin taxi drivers last year related to overcharging while one in seven cab owners have a criminal record, according to Garda figures.

However, less than 5% of all complaints reported to the Dublin Carriage Office led to a prosecution, although 42% of drivers who were reported received a formal caution. Unsubstantiated complaints accounted for 25% of the total.

Figures revealed to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport yesterday also show 25% of taxi licence applicants in Dublin failed a knowledge test.

The latest Garda statistics tend to support claims by the taxi driver unions that the number of complaints have increased sharply since deregulation of the industry in late 2000. In 2001, 509 complaints were received against taxi drivers, compared to 220 the previous year. The figure rose to a record 540 last year, while a further 217 have been received to date in 2003.

Although the number of complaints has more than doubled over the past few years since deregulation, the actual number of taxi drivers in Dublin has trebled to almost 9,800. Over the same period, the number of hackneys has fallen from more than 3,650 to less than 1,260.

Inspector Declan Brogan of the Garda Traffic Division said 48% of all complaints in 2002 related to overcharging with a further 17% claiming taxi drivers had behaved in an abusive manner. Complaints of sexual assault against drivers accounted for 1%, with a similar number for non-sexual assault.

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