On 1 November new regulations came into force in NSW for taxis, hire cars and rideshare services such as Uber.
The reforms are the result of a consultation process the State Government began in 2015 with the appointment of a Point to Point Transport Taskforce, which took over 200 submissions and reported to the Government in 2016. The review was headed by Professor Gary Sturgess, formerly a senior state public servant and Liberal Party policy advisor.
That led to the Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles) Act 2016, which embodied a number of changes recommended by Professor Sturgess’ inquiry.
The main aspects of the new regulations are:
- The creation of the office of Point to Point Transport Commissioner. The first Commissioner is Barbara Wise, a transport bureaucrat who worked on the Taskforce.
- Confirmation of the legality of Uber and other conforming rideshare services.
- Rideshare cars will have a to display a sign showing their business.
- The freedom for taxis to set their own fares, rather than the metered fare.
- A moratorium for three years on the issuing of new taxi plates, except for disabled taxis.
- The abolition of the $4 return tolls for taxis crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge northbound.
“A new era for the transport industry has begun,” said Ms Wise. “Sydney taxi customers in particular will notice some changes for the better.”
Some of the changes are substantial. The most significant is that consumers will now be able to shop around for the best price when they want to book a taxi. Many of the changes are intended to remove regulatory differences between taxis and rideshare services.
“Taxi booking companies will be able to set their own prices and potentially offer ‘frequent rider’ discounts, price matching or similar schemes,” said Ms Wise.
“Consumers booking taxis and hire vehicles, including traditional hire cars and rideshare, will also get an estimate of the price before their trip begins. This could be a fixed amount, a rate per hour or per kilometre. Importantly, they will also have to accept the estimate before the trip starts.
“Prescriptive and costly rules have been removed, and point to point transport businesses have the level playing field they have been asking for. It is now up to them to seize the opportunity to innovate to provide better services for their customers,” she said.
Mandated maximum fares for ride sharing will still apply – though customers will now have more bargaining power.
When the law was change the Government also provided a $250 million industry assistance package to help taxi and hire care licence owners adjust to the changes. More than $92 million has already been provided, mostly as compensation to plate owners, who have seen the value of their assets slashed.
The industry assistance package will be paid for by a $1 levy of all point to point travel, which will start in February 2018 and which the Government says it expects to stay in place for five years.
“While the new laws reduce red tape, safety standards have been strengthened,” said Ms Wise. “As Commissioner I have significant powers to hold the industry to account for safety.
“For the first time the buck will stop with the company making profit from the services – not just the driver,” she said. The new laws are backed by an industry and customer education campaign about the changes.
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