Tenuous taxi lifeline for city

Albany Advertiser
The Advertiser’s front page on December 17, featuring Albany City Cab operators Ellis and David Barras with passenger Colin May.
Camera IconThe Advertiser’s front page on December 17, featuring Albany City Cab operators Ellis and David Barras with passenger Colin May.

Stuart Hickson has dug deep to bring Albany’s wheelchair taxi service back from the dead despite concerns he will struggle to make ends meet.

He has also taken out a loan to buy another vehicle to help cope with the workload.

Last month the Albany Advertiser revealed that Albany’s two wheelchair taxis would leave the road after Christmas with drivers saying the State Government had made their situation unworkable.

Ellie and David Barras owned one of the taxis, and Stuart Hickson owned the other.

They said the loss of value in their plates, excessive paperwork and the threat of fines had all taken a toll.

At the time, Mr Hickson said he was at “breaking point” after 14 years in the job.

“I enjoy the job but so many things have happened in the last six months that have made it unworkable. I can’t see a way out,” he said.

While the Barras have not returned to the job, Mr Hickson went back to work about a week after Christmas.

He has been completing up to 25 jobs a day. He said he did not receive any financial support from the State Government to get back on the road.

“It’s an important service and the clients — they deserve it,” he said.

“I didn’t originally think I’d be able to cope with the workload. It’s quite busy at the moment, that’s for sure.”

Mr Hickson said he wanted to run a second vehicle because he could not provide an adequate service with one taxi.

He had a couple of potential drivers in mind.

“I’m not sure if it will work financially or not because I’m going to have to employ someone,” he said.

“You need two vehicles for the amount of work there is so I’m just going to go ahead with it and hope I can make it work.

“It’s a bit of an unknown at the moment. I’m expecting that it will cover costs.”

A Department of Transport spokesman said the department had liaised with the wheelchair taxi drivers to understand why they planned to stop operating.

He said the department had also contacted other transport service providers to investigate possible alternatives.

“(The department) understands how important a reliable and safe wheelchair taxi service is to the independence of wheelchair users in Albany, and will continue to work with the current operator and others interested in operating in the area to ensure continued service,” the spokesman said.

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