By Seán Lyons
Complaints against drivers of small public service vehicles (SPSV) in Galway have risen by 25 per cent since 2019, according to figures from the National Transport Authority.
The figures, which represent drivers of taxis, hackneys and limousines, show that there were 45 complaints against Galway SPSV drivers from January to December in 2022 compared to 36 over the same period in 2019.
The majority of complaints in 2022 were in relation to “overcharging and other matters related to the fare” with 26 complaints of this nature recorded compared to 15 in 2019.
In addition, seven complaints were made in relation to “hiring and booking of an SPSV driver” in 2022 compared to just four in 2019.
The only category which saw a decrease from 2019 was “conduct, behaviour and identification of a SPSV driver.” Just 12 complaints of this nature were recorded in 2022 compared to 17 in 2019.
Just the tip of the iceberg
Former managing director of Big O Taxis, Galway City Councillor Frank Fahy suggested that that the figures do not reflect the true amount of misconduct among SPSV drivers, saying that the figures are “just the tip of the iceberg” and that “they’re the people who actually bothered to complain.”
The Fine Gael councillor said that the industry “hasn’t been regulated for years” and he cited overcharging, refusal to take short fares and lack of wheelchair accessibility as major issues.
“We need to have someone undercover (investigating) in relation to the overcharging and the refusal to take fares,” Cllr Fahy said.
“Another major issue we have is wheelchair accessibility and guys getting licences for wheelchairs and they’re not doing it. They get the wheelchair licence and then six months later they get a doctor’s note for a bad back and say ‘I can’t be pushing a wheelchair up the ramp.’ For me, those licences should be rescinded.”
The figures also show that as of 20 February 2022, nine complaints have been made in Galway regarding either an SPSV driver not having a functioning cashless payment device, or refusing to accept a cashless payment, since this became a legal requirement on 1 September 2022.
Galway-based taxi driver Thomas Swanick said that the issue is widespread in Galway and accused non-compliant taxi drivers of “flouting the rules.”
“I’d see people walking up to taxis in front of me and they come to each taxi and say ‘do you take card payments’ and they say ‘no’ and they keep on trying the next taxi until they find one that does,” Swanick said.
“The regulator isn’t doing the job properly.”
Swanick called for increased regulation to make it more difficult for drivers to break the law.
“The regulator isn’t doing the job properly. They’re not seeing the things I’m seeing when I’m sitting on the taxi rank,” he said.
The National Transport Authority declined to comment on the figures.