It is extremely unfortunate the fallout from the Victorian government’s efforts to legalise ride-sharing such as Uber will hit those who cannot actually access the service.
Uber might have become a regular part of people’s lives in capital cities like Melbourne and Sydney, but the company has been unwilling to expand into most regional centres and is unlikely to come to the Border before the levy is introduced in 2018.
Sadly, these country folk will still pay the price to ensure the new system is operating properly for their city counterparts.
It is important the Victorian government develops a proper model to ensure a level playing field for taxi and ride-sharing services alike.
And you can rarely have progress without a cost, in this case $6.2 million overall from North East cab businesses covering Shepparton, Benalla and Wangaratta each year from 2018, earmarked for taxi compensation and administration costs.
It could be argued fixing the legislation, before the Border is faced with other regions’ issues between taxis and Uber, would save any possible drama for services in the future.
That would not be much comfort to customers having to pay an extra $2 per taxi trip when they might already be struggling financially.
Amalgamated Taxis Wodonga chairman Scott Cowie said an average taxi fare would increase from $9 to $11, which some people in lower socio-economic groups without access to cars would have to pay up to six times per week.
“Two dollars for you or I is nothing, but $2 for a pensioner is a huge thing and if you times that across five or six trips in a week that’s $12 and that’s a lot of money for some people,” he said.
And they do not have any other choice.
Not only is there no Uber on the Border, but trains and buses are not always an option for travelling to certain locations.
The Victorian government’s own reasons for changing the regulations are to “drive greater consumer choice, better service, and will place downward pressure on fares”.
But on the Border, customers will still be without the ride-sharing choice and be paying more in fares to fund the “transition package”.
Time and time again, regional areas have to cry out to government to ensure they are not disadvantaged – sadly it has happened once again.