Cabbies angry with IPART-They say changes would be ‘catastrophic’

The peak body for the state’s cabbies claims Taxi operators will be forced out of business if new licences are released in regional areas.

A draft recommendation by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) found there wasn’t enough competition in some country towns and proposed releasing a “small” number of extra licences.

IPART has proposed two categories of service. Larger areas fall into the designated zone, where there are restrictions on fares and other operating parameters. Young has nine cabs in service.

Young cab operator Daryl Hammond said adding any more taxis in town would be disastrous for existing cabbies.

"If we release any more licences into Young it will negatively impact on the viability of our business," he said.

"It is a struggle in Young to make a living already, it is hard, we have days when we sit here and do nothing, so if you bring more in it will make it worse.

"Cabbies in country towns like ours should have been consulted first before IPART released their findings, they have no idea what they are talking about."

Fellow Young cabbie Darryl Ward said the level of service customers in Young enjoy is because the taxi numbers here already are "about" right.

"The taxies here are run very efficiently and we have 14 community transport vehicles which compete against us, so adding any more cabs is not a good idea," he said.

"It is a question of viability for the current taxi service; if it diluted any further, it would be harder to find people who want to own a cab and even harder to find drivers who want to work for such low income and long hours."

NSW Taxi Council Deputy CEO Nick Abrahim said taxi operators in communities such as Gundagai, Merimbula and Jindabyne had already shut down because the industry was struggling to adapt to a new era.

He said the same thing would happen in Western NSW if the government agreed with IPART’s proposal. 

Mr Abrahim said operators were committed to offering a reasonably-priced and efficient service for regional customers but said government regulation was making that tough.

“We would ask the government to just leave us alone and allow us to adjust to the last changes that were introduced,” he said.

“If IPART’s draft proposal is adopted, it will have potentially catastrophic impacts for the industry. The quality service that exists in both bigger centres like Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo or smaller towns like Mudgee, Young or Parkes may not exist.”

IPART’s report found that taxi licence values were high in some areas, suggesting an imbalance between licence supply and demand for services.

The report also found the supply of licences was growing at a slower rate than population increase.

The regulator has proposed services located outside of Sydney be divided into two categories, a designated zone that covers most areas, and an exempt zone to cover small towns where there is little business.

There are currently 1244 taxis in what would be the designated zone and 132 in the exempted zone. IPART has recommended a 10 per cent increase in both.

Mr Abrahim said if more licences were made available, they would be most likely to be purchased by big corporations who would look to cherry pick major events rather than operating a full-time service.

“Your local taxi driver transports people with special needs, people who are looking to get home after a night at the pub, people who are getting to medical appointments,” he said.

“These operators will push out the little guy, will cherry pick when they operate and cover big events, but will then leave the local community without a service when they need it.”