10% Drop In NI Taxi Drivers

The number of taxi licences in Northern Ireland has fallen by 10% over the past year, a figure which an SDLP MLA has deemed "unacceptable".

10,666 taxis were operating across the region at the end of September 2018, representing a continuing downward trend, according to the new statistics released by the Department for Infrastructure.

The decrease in those holding licences for the transport service has been attributed to an update in the test for drivers.

The amount of people qualified to carry out the job has fallen by nearly a third since 2013, when 15,802 worked in the profession.

A decline in drivers is mirrored in the falling number of taxi operators, which has fallen to 1,406 since 2014.

In the quarterly report released on Thursday, the Department cites that the new test, which was introduced in October 2014, has caused the drop in drivers.

The test had a pass rate of 25.3% in the last three months, although that represents a slight increase of 0.6% on the previous quarter.

The length of time that licences are valid for varies. First time applicants or anyone whose qualification has been lapsed for two years is required to take the test.

SDLP MLA Mark Durkan expressed concern over the situation, highlighting the delay in licence renewals as "completely unacceptable".
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The Foyle MLA contacted Katrina Godfrey, the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Infrastructure, to address the lengthy process which is currently impacting the livelihood of many drivers.

He said: "In recent months, my constituency office has experienced an influx of taxi-licence related queries from concerned drivers. 

"Whilst I acknowledge that taxi-license applications are subject to extensive medical checks in the interests of safety, the lengthy process has left many people barely able to make a living. At times it has bordered on shambolic- I had one gentleman, turn to my office for help after being unable to work for weeks despite applying for PSV renewal 12 weeks before its expiry. The delays have resulted in my constituents experiencing financial hardship and considerable stress."

Mr Durkan explained that although not all the responsibility lies with the Department, it is bound to take steps to ensure similar scenarios are avoided as the acting licensing authority.

He added: "I have received assurances from the Permanent Secretary that the DVA are continuing efforts to expedite the process- including the recruitment of additional medical officers.

"It is unfortunate that this move was not implemented sooner, if it had been we could have minimised the negative impacts on people’s livelihoods and avoided this mess in the first place."


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