Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Question 36: To ask the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 463 of 21 November 2006, if he has received a proposal from the Commission for Taxi Regulation in relation to a subsidy to encourage the greater availability of wheelchair accessible taxis; the estimated cost to the Exchequer of such a subsidy; the amount of funding provided in the Estimates 2007 for such a subsidy; and his decision in relation to its introduction and financing. [41625/06]
Question 106: To ask the Minister for Transport if he has received a proposal from the Taxi Regulator to provide a subsidy to wheelchair accessible taxis; his views on such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41771/06]
I propose to answer Questions Nos. 36 and 106 together.
I have received no proposals to date from the Commission for Taxi Regulation regarding the provision of a subsidy to encourage greater availability of wheelchair accessible taxis. However, I expect to receive proposals from the commission shortly and when the proposals are received, they will be considered by my Department.
The lack of availability of wheelchair accessible taxis is a matter of serious concern to people with impaired mobility. Some 21% of the taxi fleet was wheelchair accessible before deregulation; the figure is now 9%. People with disabilities complain about the difficulty in getting an accessible taxi to provide a service. Those with taxis that are wheelchair accessible can make more money by serving the able-bodied community and taking larger groups. The Taxi Regulator made a proposal to the Minister for Finance. The costs involved require some subsidy or a rebate of VRT or VAT. The Minister for Finance refused this scheme despite the money available. He is preparing a scheme that will apply to the Department of Transport. What is the Minister's view on the economic viability of running wheelchair dedicated taxis? Does the Minister accept the service is not viable without subsidy? Is he prepared to give positive consideration to such a subsidy?
I do not wish to pre-empt the proposals. This Government, more than any other, has shown support for access and disability across all Departments, including the Department of Transport in public transport, buses and trains. The taxi sector is a significant contributor to public transport and I hope we can increase the number of accessible vehicles available.