Just two days after the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) suspended the vehicle registrations of 40 Uber X drivers, the Australian Capital Territory government has announced that it is set to legalise and regulate the service ahead of its launch in the city in October.
This comes as part of a wider set of reforms targeting Canberra’s taxi industry and public transport, with Shane Rattenbury, the minister assisting the ACT Chief Minister on transport reform, stating that the reforms will benefit the economy, community, and the environment.
“Public transport is an integral part of any city. These reforms are a win for Canberrans and those travelling to the Territory, improving access to diverse transport options and competitive pricing,” Rattenbury said.
“Taxis and other demand-responsive transport options are important for accessibility and social equity, and are often relied on by those with special transport needs.”
The ACT Government acknowledged that “new business models” may put pressure on the city’s taxi drivers and owners and has, as a result, stated that it will be reducing costs for taxi drivers and owners from October 30. Taxi license lease fees will be halved from $20,000 to $10,000 in 2016, and then halved again in 2017, with annual license fees for hire cars also set to be reduced.
Meanwhile, ridesharing drivers will be asked to seek accreditation and be registered, going through criminal and driving history checks, while their vehicles must be checked for safety and fully insured under customised policies.
Uber welcomed the news in a blog post, praising the ACT Government for the “sensible, safety-based ridesharing regulations.”
“The ACT Government has not only answered the demands from thousands of Canberrans for economic opportunities and more reliable and affordable transport, but, through their decision, they have also recognised the rights of all Australians to choose how they move around their cities.”
The reforms will likely see the ACT taxi industry flock to services like goCatch and Ingogo – once considered the enemy by the taxi industry – with the Government highlighting taxi booking apps in its media release.
“This innovative structure will see all business models regulated similarly and allow drivers (from taxis, hire cars and rideshare) the potential to accept bookings from more than one TBS,” the release read.
goCatch may not yet be a household name like Uber, but it’s raised $8 million in funding to date from high profile investors including Alex Turnbull, son of new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and has over 30,000 cabs around Australia using the service and more than 280,000 users making bookings through its app.
Uber has called on NSW customers and supporters to tweet at Premier Mike Baird following today’s news.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who used his budget reply speech in June to bring up the issue of legalising ridesharing, also took to Twitter to call on Baird to act following the news.
Monday’s “bizarre public crackdown” came just three weeks before a task force examining the effects of regulating ridesharing in NSW as part of a wider look at the challenges facing the taxi industry is set to deliver its findings.
In his June speech, Foley said that the Government is “defying reality” by pretending that the sharing economy is illegal or “could be fined out of existence.”
“It won’t be, it can’t be. It’s here to stay, let’s regulate it in the public interest. The people have voted with their feet: a million ride sharing trips in Sydney last year. That number will only grow.”