Is 'Uber' the future for rural Kerry?
Vintners and taxi drivers at odds over government plans to save rural Ireland
A new uber-style taxi service for rural areas, which would allow local people to use their own car as a taxi, has got the full backing from the Kerry Vintners’ Federation, who described the plan as a “no brainer”.
Their strong support comes as taxi drivers call for the industry to be liberalised to allow a “level playing field” for all. Local taxi drivers claim that ‘uber-style’ is not the solution and that the Government must take steps to help the taxi industry.
Crippling insurance, regulations and maintenance costs are forcing taxi drivers out of the business, leaving many of Kerry’s rural areas without a service.
Junior Minister for Older People and Mental Health Jim Daly is proposing the ‘uber-style’ taxi service and is to meet the National Transport Authority today, Wednesday, to put forward plans for the new proposal.
Under the proposal, people in small towns would be allowed to use their own car to pick up people within 15 kilometres of where they live and act as taxi drivers to plug a public transport gap. NCT regulations and insurance would also have to be in place.
The new drink-driving legislation has been blamed for rural isolation, forcing many to remain at home, with Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae leading the charge against the drink-driving rules.
The Kerry Vintners believe such legislation is devastating rural Ireland.
“What we find is that people in rural Ireland find it more and more difficult to come into local bars because of the perception out there about drink-driving. Something like this is a no-brainer,” said Chairman Christy Walsh, adding: “With over 300 pubs in Kerry, an uber-style taxi is needed more than ever to help save rural communities and the rural pub trade.”
He conceded that there may be issues with taxi drivers. Kerry Vintners Federation has met with local representatives to forward the idea of uber style-taxis, which they first proposed to the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland in recent years.
Ger Counihan, who runs Bunkers Bar in Killorglin, says the Goverment is ruining rural Ireland, forcing local people to be “prisoners in their own homes”.
Both Mr Counihan and Mr Walsh are critical of Local Link transport services, introduced by the Government as a way to help rural Ireland. These are run by Local Link Kerry, but the vintners claim that are not helping rural Ireland.
“It is a shocking plan to appease rural Ireland,” said Mr Counihan.
However, Local Link Kerry has hit back at the criticism and said that numbers are increasing on night-time services. Currently five operate in Kerry, but the Listowel-area route is no longer in place due to a low take-up. Local taxi drivers claim that ‘uber style’ is not the solution and that the Government must take steps to help the taxi industry.
“It is a populist solution rather than realistic. Minister Shane Ross has no idea what is going on in rural Ireland and should meet with taxi drivers. Incentives for taxi drivers in rural communites would go a long way,” said Terry Boyle of Tralee Taxi Association.
Cahersiven Hackey operator Muiris Walsh is also strongly critical, saying crippling insurance costs are damaging the taxi industry and making it unviable to operate in rural areas. He does not think an uber-system would work but co-operation between taxi drivers could help in rural communties.
Killarney taxi driver, Kevin Moriarty, says that a “level playing field” is needed but that transport in rural Ireland needs to be addressed. He believes the uber-style system would not directly hit taxi drivers in Killarney, many of whom cannot service rural areas.