Republican News · Thursday 24 Novemeber 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Government to blame for transport chaos

Fianna Fáil, the PDs and other political elements have long sought to depict taxi drivers as inefficient, self-serving and culpable for the inadequate transport service faced by commuters, especially in Dublin. It is easy for politicians to point to long taxi queues at the weekend while ignoring their own culpability for the inadequacies of public transport throughout the state. Deregulation of the taxi industry by Minister Bobby Molloy this week and the subsequent traffic chaos in Dublin was the culmination of this.

The bitter struggle set to ensue between drivers and the government may well divert attention from the fact that the 26 Counties has the least percentage of public funding assigned to public transport of any state in the EU. Strikes by bus drivers, train drivers, signal workers and other CIÉ employees have been the effect of that.

With unprecedented budgetary surpluses, one might expect a commensurate increase in funding and a comprehensive mid- to-long term plan for transportation as a whole. The integration of transport services north and south of the border, provision of adequate rural public transport and immediate measures to curb traffic problems in city areas would be important parts of this.

Instead, we have less budgetary spending percentages on transport now than in the 1980s and the pathetic dithering of government officials over what to do with Luas, amongst other initiatives. We also have the scapegoating charade we have seen this week.

Taxi drivers, some of whom spent up to 80,000 on their plates and are stuck with the repayments, are owners of small businesses that are fast going down the tubes. There were set parameters when they made their investments, but they are now being told that the goal posts have been shifted, along with a ballooning of the amount of players on the pitch. Suggesting that they should bear the burden of meeting Ireland's transportation needs allows ministers at Leinster House to continue their policy of transport underfunding and leaves the security of many taxi owners and their families at risk.

As was the case in governmental disputes with the bus drivers, train drivers, signal workers and CIÉ employees, the livelihoods of taxi drivers are being jeopardised by an inadequate, uncoordinated and underfunded government transport policy.

What we need is not further deregulation - which means that the electorate have even less control over their own transport services - but a strong, cohesive government approach. This requires funding and further public spending.

Fianna Fáil and the PDs need to realise that Irish people want an efficient and affordable transport system, over which they have some control.

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