A BATHURST access advocate has slammed the planned arrival in the city of ride-sharing service Uber, raising concerns over the impact on local taxi operators.
Uber announced on Monday that it would be launching its app in six regional cities – including Bathurst, Orange, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour – from December.
Uber says the move will increase transport options in regional centres but Bathurst Regional Access Committee (BRAC) interim chairman Bob Triming fears it could make life even harder for people with a disability.
Mr Triming said Bathurst Taxis provided an outstanding service for people with mobility problems – including two dedicated wheelchair cabs – and he could not see Uber matching it.
“The arrival of Uber is going to certainly reduce the earning capacity of the local drivers and in a place like Bathurst there’s only a limited number of cabs that can be supported economically,” he said.
“This will certainly have an impact on the services we have here.
“I’m just 100 per cent against Uber. I’ve never used one and I never will.”
NSW Taxi Council deputy CEO Nick Abrahim said the industry welcomed competition but wanted to see a “fair and equitable” playing field.
He said there were 22 taxis currently operating in Bathurst and local drivers had provided a quality service for their customers.
“Bathurst Taxis has provided a service for many years and established many loyal customers and we are confident they will stand by Bathurst Taxis,” he said.
“Local taxi drivers provide a service to all members of the community, particularly those with a disability.
“It’s a 24/7 safe and reliable service.
“If Uber wants to enter this market they are well entitled to do so but we do ask that they play by the rules from a compliance perspective.”
Mr Abrahim said complaints about Uber services in other markets included not displaying the correct signage on their vehicle and Uber drivers picking up passengers from taxi ranks.
“We want to remind passengers that taxis are the only form of transport that can legally pick up from rank and hail,” he said.
“And our cabs have some of the most sophisticated safety equipment installed, including cameras, alarms and tracking devices.”
Mr Abrahim said Bathurst taxi licence operators were understandably worried about the impact on their businesses and said the industry remained in talks with the state government about appropriate “assistance” for taxi plate holders.
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Uber head of cities across Australia and New Zealand, Natalie Malligan, said the company had decided to move into regional cities where they believed Uber service would “complement” existing taxi services.
“Bathurst is a very busy city on a Friday and Saturday night with a university there, and also during peak tourism times like the Bathurst car races in October,” she said.
Uber has not settled on a starting date in Bathurst, but is looking to launch in December.
Applications for locals to become Uber drivers opened on Monday.