Taxi drivers unsuccessfully sought permission to implement a 10% “emergency fuel levy” as part of an upcoming fare increase to account for the rising cost of petrol and diesel.
Drivers will receive a 12% increase from next month, reflecting the evolution of operating and overhead costs since 2017. A previously planned increase was postponed due to the pandemic.
More than 500 public submissions have been filed with the National Transport Authority (NTA), which regulates the industry, with an overwhelming majority in favor of the move.
However, concern remains among many drivers who fear the timing will push customers back at a time of high inflation and as the country faces a winter of inflated energy prices.
“Some submissions expressed concern that the effect of the increase could deter taxi customers from using cheaper modes of transport,” noted an NTA report on its consultation process.
“These respondents mentioned that lower fares would encourage customers to use taxis.”
Under the regulations, only maximum fares are set and drivers are free to reduce fares.
Of the 541 submissions received, 81 percent agreed with the draft Maximum Rates Order. Fewer than one in five respondents disagreed (17%). More than two-thirds of the submissions received were from or on behalf of taxi drivers.
In the comments, those working in the industry pointed to fuel and operating expenses, as well as the cost of living in general, more than any other issue.
The Irish Taxi Drivers’ Federation (ITDF) has called for a temporary measure to help offset soaring fuel prices which it said had soared 33% by the end of March.
“[We] propose to authorize the addition of an emergency charge, for example €1 on a €10 tariff and €2 on a €20 tariff. This is an emergency 10% fuel levy,” he said, saying the NTA had already set a precedent in this area.
An NTA spokesperson, however, explained that the 12% increase reflects several factors, including fuel costs.
“Proposals of what would amount to a price increase in the taxi business are not permitted by law and therefore do not form part of the maximum taxi fares ordinance,” he said.
Bolt, the taxi app which launched in Ireland in 2020, spoke of “the need to address maximum fare levels to bring Dublin and therefore the rest of the country in line with peer cities”.
Criticism of the tariff increase
However, the effects on passengers were also raised. The National Disability Authority (NDA) said that in the absence of mobility allowance, “this increase in fares may lead to increased social isolation, deprivation and health impacts for people with disabilities”.
Ireland has around 3.2 taxis per 1,000 people, compared to seven in Dublin. By comparison, the UK has 1.2 taxis per 1,000, according to NTA data. At 3.7 per 1,000 inhabitants, the number here of small public service vehicles (SPSV), a broader category, far exceeds that of most of the EU, with the average in Western Europe being 1.3 . It is only in the United Kingdom, which has 4.4 SPSV per 1,000 inhabitants, that the supply is greater. Yet many comments have focused on a perceived shortage, particularly in the capital, and it is hoped the new pricing regime will attract more drivers at peak times.
Dublin City, the Business Improvement District, offers a premium rate for drivers at less sociable hours. “Customers complain about the unavailability of taxis late at night and [the] the impact this has on their ability to return home safely,” he said in his memoir.
The fare review, introduced under the Taxi Regulation Act 2013, updates the Taxi Cost Index, or the costs associated with driving a taxi.
Between 2017 and 2022, these are estimated to have increased by 11.5%, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.
By including a provision for inbound cashless payment systems, the maximum recommended tariff increase for 2022 has been set at 12%. A similar public consultation process in Northern Ireland was launched this month.