A happy minister of transport and communications, Anne Berner (Centre), smiled even during the tough questions when she introduced the media to the key concepts of the reforms in the transport network development and financing on Monday afternoon at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
One of the key moves is to open the taxi business to competition, that is, to companies, instead of individual drivers and cars. One of the tough questions involved the friction between Berner’s proposal and the Finns leader, Timo Soini’s and the party’s opinion of not allowing the taxi business to become something out of the “wild west.”
In part, The Finns party believes that the increased number of operators entering the market would result in a decreased security of the customers. According to Soini, the proposal is not a part of the government platform. If the government is not unanimous, a proposal will not be taken into consideration.
When asked about the schism, Berner was quick to reply that the proposal is going to be sent to a five-week circulation for comments. She believes that Soini will accept this out of his curiosity.
“Do you have the support of prime minister Juha Sipilä (Centre)?” Berner was asked.
Berner also stressed that the drivers are still required to have a clean background of crimes relating to traffic and dealing with children and young adults.
The number of taxi permits would not, however, be restricted and the permit would still have to be sought from The Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi.
In addition, the pricing of taxis would be freed for competition. All prices would still require transparency and they should be available in advance. Currently, the taxi prices are set by the cabinet. The taxi business, according to Berner, is worth about a billion euros, which the society is supporting by half a billion euros.
Another major part of the transport reforms involves establishing a state-owned transport network company with tools and assets to make and save money. From the customers’ point of view, a customer would pay only for the services they use. Using the roads and a car would be monitored digitally. Not with a GPS-based technology, which is “old technology,” according to Berner, but instead with something futuristic, which would be developed with the mobile app companies.
The Finns are against such a proposition, as well.
“The Finns don’t accept the eyeballing and stalking of the drivers. Telescreens are not part of a democratic society. Anyone can drive wherever they want as long as they follow the traffic regulations,” Soini said in his blog, referring to George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, where the telescreen is used to get into people’s heads and control them.
Establishing a state-owned company raised also major questions of the ownership. The recent example of the power company Caruna, which was sold to foreign investors, is still fresh in the mind of the citizens and journalists.
“Could this company be sold to foreign investors?” one journalist asked.
“No. We are aiming to keep the ownership in the hands of domestic companies,” Berner said. “But, of course, this is a matter of voting in the parliament.”
Berner hopes the bill will reach the parliament for a vote by the end of the year.