Minister Daly to press for 'uber-style' rural taxi services

Rural drivers should be given new licences which allow them to pick up passengers for a set price within 15km of their homes in a bid to clamp down on ongoing drink driving concerns.

Minister Daly to press for 'uber-style' rural taxi services

Rural drivers should be given new licences which allow them to pick up passengers for a set price within 15km of their homes in a bid to clamp down on ongoing drink driving concerns.

Older persons minister Jim Daly will urge the change of plan at a meeting with the National Transport Authority's chief executive on Wednesday.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner a week after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed he is in favour of "liberalising" Ireland's rural taxi rules, Mr Daly said there is a clear need for an "uber-style" rural taxi system to be introduced.

Noting the ongoing stand-off over Transport Minister Shane Ross's new drink driving laws and disputed claims the law-change is trapping isolated rural people in their homes, Mr Daly said there is a need to make changes now.

And, before his meeting with the NTA's chief executive Anne Graham on Wednesday, he said among the alternations should include allowing rural drivers to pick up passengers within 15km of their homes for a set price if they have undergone garda vetting.

“Last October I wrote to Minister Ross outlining my simple 'uber-type' proposal to introduce a new level of service that would operate in addition to the current taxi and hackney service.

"It would allow the opportunity for local people to safely drive their neighbours or friends to and from their chosen destination.

"There was never more of dire need for additional public service vehicles in rural Ireland and we need to change the system to get more drivers on the road.

"The Government has taken strides in making our roads a safer place for all to use. However, people are finding it difficult to get to and from social events in particular, where there is no taxi service operating.

"People are choosing to stay at home instead of socializing, and this is not good for their mental well-being.

"As a public representative in a rural constituency it is my obligation to not only raise these concerns in the Dáil but to also to put forward workable solutions to improve the situation," he said, adding taxis "do not operate in most towns with a population of less than 7,500 people more than 30 minutes from a city".

Mr Daly's call for action before his meeting with the NTA on Wednesday came a week after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he is in favour of "liberalising" taxi licence rules in rural Ireland in a bid to address ongoing concerns over the new drink driving laws.

Asked by unaligned Independent TD Danny Healy Rae during a Dáil debate last week, Mr Varadkar said he is willing to examine the potential changes in response to a continuing push-back against the Transport Minister Shane Ross-led new road traffic laws.

While Mr Healy Rae told the Irish Examiner last week he does not believe new rural taxi rules will address the drink driving law concerns, speaking on RTE Radio's Today With Sean O'Rourke programme last Friday Fianna Fáil transport spokesperson Robert Troy said he would be open to the plans.

Similarly, in a statement on Monday, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said it wants the Government to fully back a rural taxi service that would "help alleviate isolation and encourage social cohesion".

“We need a solution that works for rural Ireland.

"The problem with transport is decades old but since the introduction of new drink driving legislation last October the public are suffering from a lack of clarity on what these changes mean, consequently people are staying at home for fear of checkpoints.

“What we have had so far is pious platitudes from a political elite that has no understanding of rural life,” said VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben.

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