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O’Dowd has ‘no plans’ to change regulations on NI taxis despite pleas from drivers



Industry representatives briefed Stormont’s Infrastructure Committee on their concerns this month, pointing out the number of active taxi licences here has halved since 2014.

In 2014 almost 16,000 active taxi licences were registered across Northern Ireland. By the end of last year this had fallen to around 7,500.

Rules around taxis were also changed in 2014, making it harder for prospective drivers to get a licence.

For instance, before 2014 only three years’ driving experience, a medical and an Access NI and a safety check were needed. Now would-be drivers also require a theory and practical taxi test, which industry representatives have said is “not fit for purpose”.

John O’Dowd was asked in an Assembly question about the Taxis Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, which lays out the regulations for the taxi industry. All subsequent legislation around taxis stems from the 2008 Act.

But he said he “does not have any plans” to update the legislation.

Stephen Anton, communications manager at Fonacab, said the legislation should be updated.

“Our concern with the Taxis Act is that it was brought in back in 2008, and colleagues who have been in this industry far longer than me started to work on the Taxis Act from as far back as 2005,” he said.

“Back in 2005 you didn’t have smartphones, you didn’t have apps, and all these things that have all become commonplace in the industry, never mind if getting into the nitty gritty of how we charge for fares or what type of taxi can be regulated, but the world has moved on and the Taxis Act hasn’t.”

DUP infrastructure spokesperson Phillip Brett said: “Current legislation is not fit for purpose and is undermining both the sector and passenger safety.

“The minister is required to carry out a review of the Act and should do so without delay.”

Mr Anton also highlighted that there are licensing changes being proposed that could increase taxi fares by 20%. The changes would mean taxi operators who have total annual fares of £90,000 or above having to charge VAT on all bookings.

Regarding the proposed changes, the Department for Infrastructure said recently: “Officials are currently assessing what legislative changes may be needed to reflect and align with the recent court rulings and the minister will make a decision in due course.”

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