Call to free up taxi limitations

May 05, 2015

Taxi booking innovator GoCatch has supported a State Government review of the industry calling for the removal of “expensive” regulation and the freeing up of types of vehicles allowed to operate as taxis and chauffeured vehicles.

GoCatch – an app that allows passengers to book directly with taxi drivers – is used by about 900 taxi drivers in Adelaide, allowing them to take bookings outside the normal taxi network systems.

The company’s Sydney-based CEO, University of Adelaide graduate Ned Moorfield, said he welcome the wholesale review, exclusively reported by InDaily last week.

He said taxis were one of the least customer-focused industries in Australia and a shake-up was needed.

Moorfield was particularly critical of South Australian regulation, which he said imposed unnecessary costs that were passed on to customers.

He said requirements for booking agencies to have a physical office in Adelaide, the cost of taxi plates, and restrictions on vehicles used for taxis and chauffeured vehicles should all be up for review.

Moorfield said these restrictions and had nothing to do with public safety.

“They’re more do do with protecting the assets of existing plate owners,” he told InDaily.

South Australian regulations impose age restrictions on taxi plated vehicles (maximum of 6.5 years and 3.5 years for entry into the market). Restrictions on accredited chauffeured vehicles are even more onerous, with the cars required to have a minimum of six-cylinders with a minimum wheelbase of 2.8 metres. This essentially restricts hire cars to luxury vehicles.

“Restricting the kind of car you can use is wrong,” Moorfield said, pointing to more liberal regimes in Victoria and NSW.

The other “disruptive” player in the taxi market, Uber, is also critical of the restrictions on chauffeured vehicles – including a minimum $20 charge – and wants these changed in the State Government review.

Moorfield said studies showed that in NSW the high cost of taxi plates contributed to about 20 per cent of total fares.

Instead of a restricted supply of plates, he wants the South Australian Government to consider introducing a low-cost permit system.

He also revealed he was examining how GoCatch could broaden its reach beyond taxis to include hire cars, putting the company in direct competition with Uber Black.

“We came into the industry because we wanted to provide much-needed competition and improve the service people are getting with taxi bookings,” he said.

“We want a better deal for everyone: we think the the taxi industry has let down passengers.”

Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan told InDaily last week there was a “massive opportunity” to improve the quality of our taxi service – including the standard of cars and the training of drivers – and to introduce innovation.

He said the whole system would be reviewed, beginning soon, including the fare structures, remuneration of drivers, the nature and number of booking systems, and the number of taxi plates allowed in South Australia.

The SA Taxi Council says it supports the review and “will work cooperatively with the Government on any issues raised by the Government as part of the review”.

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