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Friday 23 February 2018

Isolated villages to run own dedicated taxis by Christmas

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

DEDICATED taxis to serve rural areas will be rolled out later this year as part of a new scheme aimed at improving transport links.

New low-cost hackney licences will be available in parts of the country with a shortage of taxis, but the vehicles will only be allowed to operate in specific areas and cannot ply for trade in towns.

The move has been proposed by junior minister Alan Kelly as part of a review of rural transport services.

It will involve businesses or business and community groups applying for a licence to the National Transport Authority (NTA) and proving there is a demand for a service locally. The group will then employ drivers.

"These will only be in areas where there's rural isolation and there's no real public transport offering," said Mr Kelly.

"There will be restricted use within the proximity of the village, because there's a lack of taxis in rural Ireland.

'ISSUES'

"Rural transport does a lot of work, but not the on-demand services. Some taxi groups will have issues, but I'm going to ensure there's enforcement from the start.

"If somebody is caught breaking the spirit of this, their licence will be removed."

All drivers will have to be garda-vetted, and will be employed by the local group.

Other criteria include:

* Hackney stands can be approved in off-street areas where drivers can accept customers.

* Drivers would not have to sit the skills development programme currently required, and the licence fee would be €50, compared with €1,000 for regular taxis in towns and cities.

* Drivers must be resident in the local area.

* The licence will run for three years, and all vehicles must be less than 10 years old.

* It will cost €125 to renew the licence, the same rate as applies to regular hackneys.

The rural taxis are expected to be in place by Christmas.

Irish Independent

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