To ask the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself that standards for wheelchair accessible taxis applied by the carriage office are compatible with EU legislation; the reasons for and the nature of the derogation in force for Ireland in respect of this legislation; the plans he has to change the regulations governing standards for wheelchair accessible taxis; the plans he has to allow purpose built accessible taxis to be imported from other Member States of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Róisín Shortall.
For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 3rd June, 2004.
Ref No: 17111/04
Answered by the Minister for Transport
The licensing and operation of small public service vehicles, including wheelchair accessible taxis, is governed by the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002 and the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002.
Under these regulations, a licence may only be granted following presentation of a vehicle test certificate and certificate of suitability issued by the National Car Testing Service (NCTS) which confirms that the vehicle is suitable for the purpose of being licensed as a taxi, wheelchair accessible taxi, hackney or limousine, as appropriate. The testing of a vehicle for taxi licensing purposes is undertaken by NCTS in accordance with the relevant regulatory requirements, including the requirements for a wheelchair accessible taxi in the case of such a licence application.
I am not aware of specific EU legislation in relation to wheelchair accessible taxis.
Under the existing public service vehicle regulations there is nothing to preclude the licensing of purpose built accessible taxis as taxis in this country subject to them meeting the general roadworthiness and taxi suitability requirements.
The Government is committed in the Agreed Programme for Government to continue the process of making taxis wheelchair accessible. However, a number of complex issues concerning implementation of this accessible taxi policy have yet to be decided. These include improvements to the existing wheelchair accessible taxi specification to accommodate the greatest possible range of people, issues surrounding urban/rural needs and the cost of suitable vehicles. These issues will be addressed by the statutory Commission for Taxi Regulation, when established, as part of the development of new small public service vehicle standards.
The Taxi Regulation Act 2003 specifically provides that an objective of the Commission for Taxi Regulation is to promote access to small public service vehicles by persons with disabilities. In this regard, the Commission will be tasked with the determination of the future policy in relation to accessible taxis. It is envisaged that this will necessitate specific discussions with both disability and taxi representative groups. The Commission will also determine the manner and timeframe for the implementation of the standards for accessible taxi services.
Pending the establishment of the Commission, I have indicated to the Advisory Council to the Commission that I am interested in their advice on a range of issues relating to quality enhancement and standards for small public service vehicles and their drivers, including general vehicle condition and appearance, and accessibility for persons with mobility and sensory difficulties.