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Taxi Times International - August 2015 - Deutsch

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  • Mobility
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  • Elderly
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MOBILITY SUPPORT Valys:

MOBILITY SUPPORT Valys: national door-to-door service with the train as backbone. ity handicaps and those with particular illnesses fell into one government-subsidised category, elderly without a private car or support from relatives came into another (enjoying a special ID and low fare), whilst others enjoyed payment by their health insurers. The whole system was masterminded nationally by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The economic crisis, from 2009 onwards, was the signal for the Dutch government to start cutting expenses in many areas. And partly as a cost-cutting measure and partly as a policy review (shifting many tasks to the lowest rung of government), ‘Regiotaxi’ as a national service disappeared and elegibility criteria for taxi trips for the disabled and elderly were tightened. Health insurers now have to give the insured permission to use these special forms of transport beforehand. A permission which is not always granted. In many areas Regiotaxi is still operational, often alongside alternative systems. DESPITE CUTS: TAXI SUPPORT FOR DISABLED REMAINS For those in a wheelchair, impromptu private travel often remains a headache – even in The Netherlands. Despite the fact that there are many regional and one national transport scheme for the mobility-impaired. Regiotaxi is the regional taxi system for elderly people and those with mobility handicaps. For decades these systems were funded by national government, tendered for a period of 3 to 5 years by local or regional governments and operated by local or regional taxi companies. Since the start of these systems, the Dutch taxi trade rapidly changed: tendering became a recurring headache, loosing a contract or becoming a sub-contractor was a big worry. It turned the taxi industry into a contract-based taxi trade, with 75% of turnover generated by these contracts and only 25% or less by ‘ordinary’ street work. Those who were entitled to use the system, were registered by local authorities and (mostly same-day) reservations were taken by special call-centres (often operated by the contracted taxi company). These centres would optimise vehicle use – standard vehicles were adapted versions of mostly lift-equipped Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Volkswagen Crafter and similar minivan-models – combining various separate trips into one. Tender requirements specified acceptable delays for bookings (usually quarter of an hour before and after the requested pick-up time) and the length of detours with other passengers. In practice these ‘taxis’ operated like mini-busroutes. A maximum of three people were picked up at home addresses and transported to various destinations in town. Returns were organized in the same way. For passengers a cheap, relatively fast and handy system. Low (cash) fares – mostly 1 euro a person for a trip – based on the state-aided subsidies, made them attractive for the growing group of users. CUTTING EXPENSES The payment system behind the ‘Regiotaxi’ was complicated and differed depending on the ‘type’ of passenger. People with mobil- PHOTO: Wim Faber PHOTO: Jan van de Nes DUTCH TAXI TRADE SUFFERS ‘Regiotaxi’ as a mix of taxi and public transport system, is still alive and kicking. And just as in countries operating similar systems (like Sweden and Denmark) tendering procedures have been refined (in most cases benefitting cost-cutting and not quality transportation). This has led to a continuous downward spiral in costs undermining the economic foundations of the Dutch industry (see our news page 7). Many taxi companies have gone bust, others are struggling. Also operations continually change. Booking centres are now often tendered separately or are in the hands of (local) governments – a leaf taken out of the Swedish tendering book. Local authorities contract taxi companies in co-operation with the regional authorities (mostly twelve Dutch provinces) to transport people to hospitals, theatres, restaurants and other social activities. Within the Regiotaxi-boundaries disabled and elderly passengers can also be driven to relatives. But costs –under new types of legislation – have risen tremendously for all user-groups. The provinces, now the main subsidisers, in turn got cut by their subsidisers: national government. In some cases the bureaucracy and the cost of the service no longer make ‘Regiotaxi’ attractive for the target group. NEW ALTERNATIVES This led to the reduction of taxi use by those who need it most. And contracted taxi companies suffer from this reduction in trips. All over the country users are looking for new alternatives. Local groups form associations. They purchase small buses and ‘hire’ volunteers to drive. They get contributions from users, from local companies and sometimes subsidies from the local authorities. These systems have all sorts of inventive names like ‘Belbus’ (Call-a-bus), ‘Wensbus’ (Wish-bus) or Boodschappenbus (Shopping-bus) and together with the ‘Buurtbus’ (Neighbourhood-bus, a subsidised jitney-type system run by volunteers) form the backbone of a rudimentary public transport / taxi system. Some taxi companies have started a subscription system to make it a ‘closed system’ with different fares: a yearly membership fee of € 2.50 and each local trip is € 6.00. jvdn THE NATIONAL SOLUTION: VALYS For trips outside local communities served by Regiotaxi, the disabled and the elderly can register with Valys. This nationwide concept is supported financially by national government and is tendered on a 5-year basis. Within a yearly kilometre-budget individuals plus one accompanying person can travel door to door in The Netherlands. Valys, which uses the call-centre of the Rotterdam taxi company RTC, works closely with many local taxi companies and with Dutch railways as the backbone of the system. Users have the option to travel by taxi doorto-door all the way (consuming more of their kilometre-budget) or to have a door-to-door trip planned by taxi, train and taxi, including wheelchairassistance, having their trips monitored real-time and being in constant touch with the Valys call-centre. wf 10 TAXI AUGUST / 2015 11

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