Dissension in the ranks over rising taxi fares and new licences

Written with Steve Lillebuen

 The Victorian government’s taxi reforms have angered some drivers and appear to have divided customers.

The state government is pushing the first taxi fare rise in six years with three kinds of tariffs on customers, depending on the time of day.

More taxi licences will be sold too in a bid to end cab shortages on Friday and Saturday nights and, with the fare increases, deal with the problem of drivers refusing short fares.

But dozens of angry drivers lashed out at the reforms, saying higher fares would mean nothing when they were competing with even more drivers.

”This is going to kill us,” said Nasr Nabbout at a Friday protest organised by the group Victorian Taxi Families.

About 60 drivers and supporters marched from Parliament House to Exhibition Street, blocking traffic for an hour. Group spokeswoman Sandy Spanos said 120,000 people were involved in the industry and many were furious at the government. ”This will cost them an election,” she said.

One taxi user pointed out that the fares would still be far lower in Victoria than they are in Queensland.

Others users raised the issue of affordability. ”If fares rise, I wouldn’t be getting a taxi. I would just walk,” said Steven Newton, 31. Eighteen-year-old Poppy, from Frankston, said: ”Adding more to the fare will make it even harder.” But David Samuel, of the Victorian Taxi Association, said he hoped customers accept fare increases as being long overdue.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder said he wanted to support change in the industry. The opposition highlighted its plan for 24-hour public transport to deal with late-night cab shortages.

Published in The Age, April 12 2014
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/dissension-in-the-ranks-over-rising-taxi-fares-and-new-licences-20140411-36iec.html#ixzz2yqMHeHSy

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