It's just not fare, cabbies say

WODONGA’S taxi drivers have raised alarm at proposed reforms that could lead to 13 different fare structures in the city.

Wodonga Taxis chairman Scott Cowie yesterday said the Victorian government’s changes allowed regional and rural operators to set their own fares.

The reforms follow an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry into the taxi system, led by Professor Allan Fels.

They would require operators to tell passengers the fare, which could be no higher than the maximum advertised fare.

A network wanting to set a fare for all operators would have to apply to the ACCC or it could face charges of collusion.

Mr Cowie said all of Wodonga’s drivers worked through the Wodonga Taxis dispatch, but nine of the city’s 15 cabs were individually owned and operated.

Wodonga Taxis owned another four and two were owned outside the area.

This meant there could be 13 fare structures in the region.

“A cab one day might charge $10, and a different one the next another price,” Mr Cowie said.

“At the moment you get a cab anywhere and it will be the same price.”

Apart from confusion, Mr Cowie feared anger and violent incidents were likely.

“Imagine if you take someone to the pub and it costs $6 and then it costs $9 to get home,” he said.

“As a driver, people who’ve had a few beers aren’t necessarily the best to deal with.”

He said operators may have to keep prices low to stay competitive, leading to less money for drivers and poorer service.

Wodonga Taxi’s fares have not increased in six years at $1.76 a kilometre plus a $3 flag-fall.

A key issue of the inquiry was to consider network monopolies in Melbourne, but Mr Cowie said many big-city issues did not apply in regional centres where there were so few licences.

He said, as a network, Wodonga Taxis often ran at a loss, “just breaking even sometimes”.

The public can comment on the taxi fare proposals until February 14 at www.taxi.vic.gov.au.

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