U-turn as FF pledges to put freeze on new taxis
VOW: Carey goes for cabbies' vote
FIANNA Fail went after the votes of nearly 20,000 taxi drivers today by promising a moratorium on new licences.
The Herald can reveal that Transport Minister Pat Carey is set to announce a new policy that will freeze the deregulation of taxis.
The party is also prepared to overlook new rules which state that no taxi should be older than nine years.
"It is clear to me that while deregulation of the taxi industry has improved the availability of taxis for customers, it is important that we also have regard to the right of taxi drivers to make a decent living. It is important to strike a balance," Mr Carey told the Herald.
More than 13,500 licensed taxis pile into Dublin city every day while there are also over 4,000 regional operators.
This is on a par with cities such as New York and London which have populations of 14m and 10m respectively.
Taxi unions have repeatedly protested against deregulation, which has seen taxi numbers soar in recent years.
And today Fianna Fail changed the stance of former Minister Noel Dempsey, who refused to curtail the growing numbers.
Mr Carey has discussed the issue with party leader Micheal Martin and new transport spokesman Billy Kelleher, who both agreed that taximen were being put under "intolerable pressure".
In an election document to be revealed this evening, they say that the industry has become "oversubscribed" and "this situation has caused real difficulties for those working in the industry".
The news is likely to be welcomed by existing taxi drivers, especially in the capital where there are nearly three times as many taxis as places on ranks.
Fianna Fail says that it wants to recreate a taxi regime which is "affordable, accessible and provides a quality service".
"We accept that there have been significant increases in the number of taxis on our roads since deregulation in 2000," the new policy says.
Mr Carey has written to the National Transport Authority, which manages the regulation of the Small Public Transport Vehicle Sector, to inform it of his party's position.
In the letter he said that Fianna Fail believes "the introduction of a cap on numbers will make the taxi industry fairer, safer and better equipped to deal with the needs of taxi drivers and the general public alike".
He also noted that the party will support the suspension of the introduction of the 'Nine Year Rule' on the replacement of taxis to July 31, 2012.
"Fianna Fail will implement new legislation to robustly enforce taxi regulation and to increase penalties for those operating illegal taxis," the new policy document concludes.