ROANNE BOLDERY, Townsville Bulletin
March 22, 2017 8:54am
TOWNSVILLE’S taxi industry is up in arms over the “unfair advantage” it claims has been handed to Uber.
Ride-sharing service Uber kicked off last week with drivers revealing they got on the road for under $500 with minimal ongoing costs.
Comparatively, it can cost more than half-a-million dollars to get a taxi owner’s licence, a driver employed and a vehicle roadworthy, plus more than $30,000 in additional yearly charges.
“It is not a level playing field by any stretch because the taxi industry have been highly regulated by the State Government for years now, with a taxi owner’s licence costing up to $500,000 at one point, plus they’ve had massive insurance premiums and fork out huge sums to get each cab up to regulatory standards,” Townsville Taxis general manager Angela Rheeders said.
“We’re frustrated because it directly affects the 700 people employed by the Townsville taxi industry who could be at risk of losing their livelihood.”
Ms Rheeders said those affected included 80 licence holders who operate the city’s 135 taxis, 550 active drivers, plus a team of 40 people who run the office and call centre, which was heavily relied upon by the elderly, disabled and schoolchildren to book fares.
Uber, launched in Townsville on March 16, maintains the ride-sharing service can work alongside the local taxi industry.
Uber has 15 drivers with 35 awaiting authorisation.
Townsville taxi drivers were reluctant to say if they were yet to see any fallout from Uber’s arrival, but taxi licence holders who have invested heavily in the industry are concerned for their future.
Licence holder Colleen Babao said she and husband John paid $260,000 for a taxi licence in 2001 and $400,000 for another in 2007.
“Now, because anyone can download an Uber app, slap a sticker on their car and transport passengers, the value of our licences, which we purchased from Queensland Transport and Main Roads, has been obliterated while we are still paying off our debts and facing huge running costs that Uber drivers do not have.”
Ms Babao and her husband, both in their 50s, left the local banking industry almost 18 years ago and poured their life savings into the licences as a “safe superannuation option”.
“One licence we wanted to sell so we could travel Australia in a caravan and the other we wanted to hand down to our sons who are both in their 20s and currently driving for us,” Ms Babao said
“Our retirement might be off the table now while our two boys are a bit deflated to see what has happened to their family and their future.”
The Babao family has taken up the State Government’s $20,000 one-off transitional assistance payment, handed out to affected taxi licence owners.