Commuters face delays in two cities as taxi drivers protest over licences

FRIDAY afternoon commuters in Limerick and Waterford faced long delays as taxi drivers in the two cities staged separate protests.

And the disruption could spread nationwide as taxi drivers become increasingly disaffected with the numbers of taxi licences being issued and the impact on the salaries of long-term drivers.

Waterford drivers held stoppages for the second time in a month to show their frustration at the lack of taxi rank spaces in the city centre. The Waterford Taxi Association has claimed there are hundreds of taxi licences operating in the city but too few spaces.

Waterford City Council said it was “disappointed” at the disruption caused to traffic by the action.

A spokesman for the council said the action appeared to centre on two grievances — too many taxis being licensed since deregulation and a perceived lack of rank spaces. “We have worked for a considerable time with representatives of the city’s taxi drivers with a view to reaching solutions and compromises. A package of measures brought forward includes an additional nighttime rank at Parnell Street and additional daytime rank spaces on the Quay near Barronstrand Street and at John Street. “These amount to a significant increase in the number of rank spaces in the city centre area. The taxi drivers’ apparent preference for continued concentration of rank spaces in the Peter Street and Michael Street area is simply not viable or compatible with our need to keep in mind the requirements of other road users and businesses.”

Meanwhile, in Limerick drivers staged a two-hour go-slow Coonagh Cross to Limerick City Hall.

Drivers claim there are close to 950 licensed operators in Limerick — 450 more than required.

One driver said: “The taxi industry is all up in a heap... Everyone is at it from plasterers to builders. It is going to get very bad if there is an economic downturn.”

The Commission for Taxi Regulation said: “The small public service vehicle industry is working within a liberalised market and it is not within the remit of the commission to put a cap on the number of licences issued. The matter of the provision of taxi rank spaces is the remit of the relevant local authority.

“The commission has undertaken to conduct an economic review of the industry and a nationwide audit of taxi ranks in 2008,” it said. “Whilst the commission recognises the right of members of the industry to express their views unfortunately disruptive action only succeeds in inconveniencing potential customers.”

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