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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 June 2015
NEWS 2 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 JUNE 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM UberX: NSW continues the fight State government to stiffen defence against ‘disruptive technology’ MICHAEL SWEET The NSW government confirmed this week it will continue to fine UberX drivers, with Transport Minister Andrew Constance saying he is close to announcing a new process for regulating the state's taxi industry. "We have a disruptive technology which is having an impact, and I am wanting to find the right regulatory framework which puts taxis in particular on a level playing field," Mr Constance told reporters this week. The minister, appointed since the March election, used an interview with Fairfax Media to indicate his focus was on reducing the costs of running a taxi, and that he would continue to decline meetings with Uber, whose controversial UberX platform has been operating in Sydney for over a year. The minister has indicated he would only meet with the 'ride-sharing' company after a new path for regulation of the industry was in place. "I will get to a point where I'm willing to consult with all parties but at the moment I just need to make sure that we've got a process in train," Mr Constance said. The state government's pricing body, the Independent, Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), has called for a regulatory framework that could oversee all forms of point-to-point transport such as taxis and ride-sharing services. Mr Constance said drivers using the UberX booking platform would continue to be pursued through the courts because they were in breach of the Passenger Transport Act, which allows only accredited taxi and hire car operators to take bookings. "From my perspective you have a group of people who are obviously dismissive of the Passenger Transport Act, you've got another group of people who ... are very regulated," Mr Constance said. "Everyone's saying we want a level playing field." Drivers who use their own cars with UberX avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars in costs incurred by traditional taxi drivers. According to a recent IPART study, a taxi operator in NSW in 2014 would have paid over $27,000 to hire licence plates, $11,000 in insurance, up to $9,000 in vehicle lease costs, and over $7,000 in network fees. Roy Wakelin-King, CEO of the NSW Taxi Council, the peak body that represents the state's industry, said he would "welcome a process that has a proper look at the regulatory framework for the taxi industry". "There is a strong prevailing sense of injustice in our industry, where people who do the right thing and com- Fare’s fair: drivers using the UberX booking platform will continue to be fined in NSW as they are in breach of the state’s Passenger Transport Act. PHOTO AAP/NIKKI SHORT. ply with the law are observing others apparently getting away with it," Mr WakelinKing said. "And where that costs money and has financial impacts on owners, operators and driv- ers, that sense of injustice is very strong." Victoria's taxi industry regulator, the Taxi Services Commission, has a similar approach to NSW and has taken UberX drivers to court for not abiding by Victorian taxi regulations. The Victorian government has appointed a subcommittee to explore ways that illegal ride-sharing can be integrated into the regulated environment. Nightmare on Flinders Street Buses trial for Vic rail link Feeling the sharp end of Uber in Melbourne PANOS APOSTOLOU Tassos Revis, a 'guru' of Melbourne's taxi industry, and for many years a taxi company owner, told Neos Kosmos this week that Melbourne's taxi drivers are suffering badly because of Uber. "Many colleagues tell me that Uber has become their nightmare. Customers are not calling and their turnover has significantly reduced," says Mr Revis, who believes the ride-sharing company should be declared illegal by the Victorian government. Meanwhile, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has called for the traditional taxi industry to "learn from Uber". "The government should have a conversation with Uber. Simply saying 'we're going to ban it' is not going to solve the problem. There is a technology that is happening, and we have to say 'how do we regulate it?'." Mr Revis said that the Napthine administration Mr Guy was a member of should take the blame for the current situation. "That government didn't support professional taxi drivers." Mr Revis is pinning his hopes on the Andrews government to rectify the situation. "Premier Andrews has pledged to support our industry with $4 million and his government has already shown its good intentions." Apostolos Kounelis, a Melbourne taxi insurance company owner, has warned that Uber customers run the risk of suffering uninsured injuries if the Uber car they are travelling in is involved in an accident. "If you use Uber and experience an accident and you are injured, passengers are not insured and will have to pay for all their medical ex- Tassos Revis penses," said Mr Kounelis. "But in taxis, precisely because it is a professionallyinsured vehicle, passengers should feel more secure. Uber is a reality. It's here to stay. But there must be some kind of intervention by the Victorian government." Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families (VTHCF) - the organisation which represents many taxi owner operators across the state (and which ran a vocal campaign against reforms to the taxi industry introduced by the Napthine government), said this week that it was increasingly concerned over Uber's lobbying of the Victorian government. It is understood Uber met with Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan recently to make its case. VTHCF administrator Sandy Spanos told Neos Kosmos that during the last 12 months licenced cabbies in the state were experiencing 40 per cent less demand because of Uber's impact. "Competition is not an issue but Uber drivers should pay the $3,000 registration licence, another $3,000 for the insurance, and of course GST." As part of Public Transport Victoria's (PTV) Regional Rail Link project in Melbourne's west, double-decker vehicles operated by bus operator CDC will be trialled next month. The trial will run as part of PTV's plans to modify the regional rail network, with trains no longer connecting Werribee and Geelong. Instead new tracks will connect Geelong with Deer Park and use recently established stations Wyndham Vale and Tarneit. CDC group operations manager George Konstantopoulos said that along with the positive of being able to accommodate up to 110 people, the vehicle type presents fewer difficulties with parking at bus stops than articulated buses. "The bendy [articulated] buses are 18 metres whereas the double-deckers are 12 metres," Mr Konstantopoulos said. He also explained that the trial route between Werribee and the two new stations was not close to tram tracks, and that if the buses are to be used in other areas of Victoria further risk assessments would be required. Enthusiastic about PTV's decision to use the local manufacturer, Volgren, CEO Peter Dale told reporters: "We've been building double-deck buses for quite a while, exporting them to Singapore and Hong Kong. "Our bus is a little different to a lot of other buses in that it's aluminium, and with that it can be stronger for lighter weight," he said. "The real advantage of the double-deck is not just that you get more people on, but most importantly they can sit down. You can get a lot of people on an articulated bus, but they can't sit." Source: ABC Double-deckers hit the road next month in Melbourne’s west. PHOTO: PTV.
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