Taxi rule ‘threat to business’

Saskia Adysti and Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Albany City Cab owner operator's David ans Ellie Barras, Tim O'Donnell and Terry Dombrowski.
Camera IconAlbany City Cab owner operator's David ans Ellie Barras, Tim O'Donnell and Terry Dombrowski. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Albany’s largest taxi operator says he could close his business in two months because of the State Government’s taxi regulation changes, which he claims could starve regions of off-peak serve.

Albany City Cabs owner Tim O’Donnell, who runs 14 taxis in Albany, said new laws to combat ride-sharing services would cost him and the community.

Under the plan, from July 1 the taxi plate system across the State will be scrapped in favour of a buy-in, ride-share model.

Mr O’Donnell claimed the changes could cut services to Albany’s elderly and vulnerable residents, with drivers no longer required to accept all fare requests — potentially ending “unprofitable” trips.

“There is barely any profit when we take calls from the elderly in town who uses the taxi subsidy voucher for a 10 minutes ride,” he said.

“We don’t make any money with those trips, but we have accepted the good and the bad of the business.

“Who is going to look after these people when we’re closed?”

Albany City Cab owner operator's David ans Ellie Barras, Tim O'Donnell and Terry Dombrowski.
Camera IconAlbany City Cab owner operator's David ans Ellie Barras, Tim O'Donnell and Terry Dombrowski. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

The changes are part of the State Government’s 2017 response to the growth of services such as Uber and Ola.

Under them, owners of metropolitan taxi plates have been able to access a buy-back taxi plate scheme to compensate their lost assets.

However, regional plate owners, who lease their plates for about $200 a year according to the State Government, were excluded from the scheme.

Mr O’Donnell said his investment had exceeded $1 million.

“The legislation has been drafted and put through to suit the city taxis, but the region have no input to it and we’ve been left to wear it,” he said.

He also warned operators would no longer be required to operate 24-hours, saying this could leave periods of no service outside of peak hours in low-population areas.

Eclipse Taxi owner Arda Sloan expressed similar frustration over what she claimed was an average $90,000 value loss per car.

“I’ve lost all that money,” she said.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti defended the upcoming changes.

She said the rule changes would open up the market for competition and allow services to enter more communities.

Ms Saffioti defended the upcoming changes.
Camera IconMs Saffioti defended the upcoming changes. Credit: The West Australian

Ride-and-hail services would continue, she said, but regional taxis would have to be upgraded with safety equipment including cameras.

“Consideration is being given to what further support could be provided to address transitional matters that may affect the operation of country taxi-cars in the regions,” Ms Saffioti said.

“Further advice on these considerations will be provided to regional taxi-car operators in due course as part of the Budget process.

“The changes will mean that it will now be possible for taxis that are normally restricted to operating in nearby towns, such as Albany, to operate in Denmark and other areas to service local demand.”

South West Region MP Steve Thomas said he intended to submit a disallowance motion to Parliament.

“Conversations with regional taxi providers would indicate they’re in deep financial problems, suffering a lot of business stress at the moment,” he said.

“There needs to be some consideration as to what might be (fair) for regional taxi drivers to ensure their survival.”

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