A Laois County Councillor has called on the Local Hackney Pilot Scheme to be introduced in rural areas across the County.
Fine Gael Cllr, Conor Bergin raised the motion at the monthly meeting of Laois County Council this week.
The Local Hackney Pilot Scheme is a grant-aided programme that aims to assist in the provision of part-time local hackney services.
These are services in designated rural areas which cannot support a full time taxi or hackney operation.
Up to €6,000 will be payable over one year where the service provider can show that the services are being used and that the Local Hackney is of benefit to the community.
One critical feature of this special limited licence is that no Local Hackney service may replace or displace any standard taxi or hackney service already operating and providing services in any area.
The Scheme was announced in January 2023 by Minister Eamon Ryan.
21 pilot areas around the country were initially chosen such as Ballon, Co Carlow, Freshford, Co Kilkenny and Kilcormac, Co Offaly.
However, this announcement did not include an area in county Laois.
“I have spoken to a number of people locally in County Laois who would be interested in setting up a hackney service in a rural area,” Cllr Bergin said.
“However, it would currently be prohibitive for them to do so with the costs of getting set up.
“If this grant was made available to communities in County Laois, it would allow more people to set up hackney services in rural communities such as in the Borris-in-Ossory-Mountmellick area.”
A Local Hackney may only pick up passengers within a designated area of about 7 – 10km from a chosen point, normally the residence of the licenced driver.
The drop off point has no restrictions, with trips to healthcare facilities and transport hubs further afield anticipated.
“In every rural town and village in County Laois, there are many local businesses such as shops and pubs which would greatly benefit from having more transport services available, Cllr Bergin said.
“There is a shortage of Hackney drivers in many communities in Laois at present.
“Rural people want to be able to go to a pub in their community to meet their friends and neighbours and support a local business, but it can often be difficult to get home.
“Having a local Hackney service would mean having a safe, affordable and accessible way of getting home.
“I am calling on Minister Ryan to roll out this scheme to County Laois in 2024 and I am hopeful that we can see more local Hackney services up and running in rural towns and villages in our county in the very near future.”
The motion was heavily supported in the chamber, with Cllr Seamus McDonald saying the service would be a big help in the Rosenallis/Clonaslee area.
Cllr Ollie Clooney said the service would be a big help to people in rural areas, not just going for a couple of pints in the evening, but also going to medical appointments.