The DUP and Sinn Fein supported a raft of proposals to regulate and improve taxis services including the creation of a single tier system when the Taxis Act was passed in 2008. They are now looking to repeal some of these provisions.
Anna Lo MLA said: “In April 2008, every party backed the Taxis Act, so I am bemused as to why the DUP and Sinn Fein have done a U-turn and sought to maintain the outdated two tier system. In October 2013 every party again supported the proposal for the regulations in the taxis legislation.
“Somehow, in the intervening period, DUP and Sinn Fein members began to express concerns over the costs for equipment and the notion that competition may driver the Belfast Public Hire taxis out of business. It is my belief that they have changed their mind after they were lobbied by certain interested groups.
“In any big cities such as London, New York, Hong Kong or Tokyo, where taxis are an essential means of transport for the public to move around the city, people take it for granted that they can hail a taxi anywhere anytime without having to book a taxi in advance or walk to a taxi rank. Tourists coming to Northern Ireland will not understand why empty taxis won’t stop for them in the city centre. It will also prevent certain taxis from waiting for fares at large events.
“Public hire taxis represent only 10% of taxis in Belfast. There is no rationale for the Assembly to ignore overwhelming public support for a single tier system in favour of keeping the monopoly for Belfast Public Hire. In proposing to remove these regulations, DUP and Sinn Fein will allow one small sector in the taxi industry to prevent progress for the whole of Northern Ireland.”