Cork County Council has called for a review of the criteria for the Small Public Service Vehicle Licence (SPSVL) to allow those who have a P.C.V. licence to drive hackneys.
P.C.V. D or D1 category licence holders can, by law, drive a 9 -16 seater bus but are barred from driving a taxi or hackney.
Cllrs have also called for expanded bus routes and an increased frequency of bus services, including the local link bus services.
The move comes after Motions tabled by Independent Cllr, Danny Collins and Fianna Fail Cllr Bob Ryan also called for the high cost of insurance for Taxi/ Hackneys to be tackled.
The Cllrs told the February Sitting of full Council that taxi industry regulations similarly need updating to reflect new technology, to help increase tourism and businesses in rural Ireland.
The high cost of insurance and the introduction of a “knowledge test” has the taxis industry facing possible extinction as it struggles to attract new entrants.
The number of taxi drivers on our roads has dropped by over 20,000 in the past 8 years. Nationally, we have 26,012 taxis on our roads, down from 47,222 registered in 2009.
Under the SPSVL, drivers are required to have an in-depth knowledge of their County including numbers of motorways and national roads, housing estates, popular pubs and clubs and emergency services.
Cllr Collins said the SPSVL testing seems to be designed to fail. The questions are so hard it’s virtually impossible to pass it. Some people have failed, while others have looked at it and wouldn’t bother even trying”
He said knowing the geography of half the county is one thing, but most of the journeys undertaken by hackney drivers are short trips within a couple of miles of the local town or hinterland.
Both Cllrs Ryan and Collins said that by accepting their proposal it would “solve a lot of issues, such as the lack of hackneys, and maybe give some life for people in rural areas.”
“People in Rural Ireland are trapped in their homes because they are treated in a very different way from the city dwellers and town dwellers, who have easy access to transport which is heavily subsidised by the State” said Cllr Ryan.
Cllr Collins said “the majority of hackney drivers work early morning shifts such as school runs or hospital runs, and they can’t be expected to operate throughout the day and into the night.”
Fine Gael Cllr Anthony Barry said there was a great case being made for localised licencing.
“The cost of getting a licence for taxi and hackney drivers is hugely prohibitive in a lot of areas but if it’s not going to be a money making venture it might be a part time operation.”
He said local link in rural areas and the bus and rail network serving Metropolitan Cork also need to be looked at as well.
Fianna Fail Cllr Bernard Moynihan said if we are to retain business in rural areas, taxis and pubs should be grant aided.
“Pubs are closing down, Post Offices are gone…. there are GAA clubs going out of existence and others amalgamating to provide a team, and that’s going to hit on and hit on. The taxis service and the publicans should be grant aided to stay in business to try and keep the fabric of rural Ireland alive”