Town drivers to fund metro scheme

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph

Pilbara taxi drivers are slamming the proposed taxi buyback scheme saying the State Government is using them to help metropolitan drivers.

Under the proposed scheme, which has already met opposition from the State’s taxi industry, a minimum of $100,000 would be offered to metropolitan plate owners who had seen the value of plates dive since the introduction of Uber in 2014.

The Government plans to fund it through a 10 per cent levy, charged across WA’s taxi industry over four years, and will also allow on-demand transport operators to work anywhere in the State and alter their operating hours.

However, Pilbara drivers have hit back saying with prices already higher than their metropolitan counterparts, a 10 per cent increase would mean the end of business.

“We’ll lose big customers and we won’t get any new customers to counteract that if I have to add 10 per cent onto my fares,” one owner said.

“Even if you explain that the increase is the Government’s doing, some people just wont see it. No matter what we say they just think we’re out to rip them off so we may as well close our doors.

“They already make me pay more per vehicle, more in fees, charges and insurance yet they don’t police the illegal drivers that pop up on Facebook that I have to compete with. If they impose this 10 per cent I might as well hand my plates back.”

While regional taxi and charter operators will pay the levy they will not have access to the taxi plate buyback compensation scheme.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the State Government was planning to consult with regional taxi operators before presenting the final legislation to Parliament.

“The State Government is still liaising with regional operators and is considering a number of options to support them during the temporary levy period,” she said.

“We intend to have a support package for regional operators in agreement before the new legislation is introduced to State Parliament.”

However at the time of print, local taxi companies said they had not been contacted by the Government about the levy.

Shadow minister for northern Australia Ken Baston said regional people would once again be paying for policy that “solely benefits” the metropolitan area. “In regional areas, taxi services are very important to the tourism industry, road safety and is often the only mode of transport available for people with little financial means, ill health or who have been disqualified from driving to access important appointments — it’s important that regional taxi services remain viable year round,” he said.

“These proposed reforms will diminish the capacity of regional taxi operators to carry out further year round on-demand services.

“There will be a subsequent decline in taxis and other transit services operations as a result.”

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