The criticism of transport for special education and Valys, the service for travelers with a mobility impairment, is indeed a much-discussed topic in the Netherlands. There are often complaints about the punctuality and reliability of these forms of transport. For families and individuals who rely on these services, this can cause a lot of stress and inconvenience.
The use of taxi drivers for special transport such as student transport and Valys services raises a number of ethical and practical questions. It depends on various factors whether it is responsible to have taxi drivers perform this type of work. Taxi drivers are professionals when it comes to transportation. They are familiar with the roads, regulations and logistics. Taxis are generally readily available and can be used flexibly, so in many cases they are extremely suitable for this type of transport.
However, there are points of attention. The target audience of this type of transportation may have special needs beyond the expertise of an ordinary taxi driver, such as medical or behavioral challenges. If taxi drivers offer these services, they may need to undergo additional training to deal with the specific needs of these groups.
Stories about children who have to wait a long time or about people with disabilities who are unnecessarily forced to stay at home are emotionally charged and thus attract attention. This type of transport is often financed from public funds, which means that there is a public interest in its proper functioning. Failure in service delivery is quickly seen as a failure of public institutions, and that is newsworthy.
When things go wrong, it is easy for the public and the media to point out a 'culprit', such as the transport companies or the municipalities. This simplifies complex problems, but also makes them easier for the general public. These kinds of topics can also be played out politically, for example as evidence of policy failures or as a means to advocate certain changes. Last but not least, negative stories often attract more attention than positive ones. In a media landscape where clicks and viewing figures are of great importance, these types of stories can take priority over other news items.
The problems surrounding transport in special education and for people with mobility limitations are partly related to budgetary limitations and the so-called “race to the bottom” in the tender processes of recent years. Everyone is talking about it and it goes on and on. While that bottom has long been reached.
In many cases, municipalities and other government agencies are faced with limited budgets. This can lead to cost savings that put pressure on the quality of services. When there is less money available, issues such as proper vehicle compensation, driver training and adequate planning can be compromised.
Taxi companies can sometimes underbid in an attempt to win a contract. This can lead to a vicious circle in which companies feel compelled to lower their prices in order to remain competitive, ultimately at the expense of quality of service. In such cases, drivers may be under pressure to complete more trips in less time, or companies may be cutting back on key issues such as maintenance and training.
Excluding the lowest tender is an option, but this should be carefully considered. It could lead to higher prices without guaranteeing better quality. A better approach may be to set minimum standards in areas such as driver training, vehicle maintenance and customer service to ensure that all tenders meet certain basic requirements.
Part of the problem may lie in unclear communication about what exactly the expectations are on both sides. For example, if parents and carers expect the taxi driver to help with getting in and out or carrying bags, and this has not been made clear in advance, problems can arise.
In some cases, specific service levels are contractually established between the carrier and the municipality or another client. In that case, it is reasonable for parents and carers to have high expectations as the service provider has committed to a certain standard.
In short, while taxi companies play a role in the problem of under-registration, the solution lies in a more coordinated approach in which both governments and transport companies focus on sustainable quality and reliability in addition to price.