Taxis in Western Australia’s tourism hotspot on the brink due to driver shortages
Western Australia’s South West is renowned for wine, food, and breathtaking scenery, but it is also becoming infamous for painfully long taxi wait times.
- Taxi companies in the South West say they will be forced to close if they can’t get drivers
- They blame rideshare services and State Government reform
- A Government spokeswoman says the number of taxis and rideshare services has increased
The taxi industry has suffered in recent years with the introduction of rideshare services and the largest overhaul of the industry the state has ever seen in a bid to level the playing field.
Companies in the region say the reform has caused a driver shortage so problematic they are likely going to have to close.
For the first time in 28 years, Jeff Devenny has had to scale back his taxi service in Busselton to survive and no longer operates on Sundays.
During the peak holiday season in 2019, Mr Devenny said he had 36 drivers.
This season he had just 22.
“We’ve had to micro-manage what we’re doing. We couldn’t take certain jobs that would tie up vehicles,” he said.
State says services are soaring
Last week, Margaret River Taxis called for new drivers in a Facebook post, stating it would be closing if there was no interest.
“The new rules and regulations, the cost and how long it takes to obtain a taxi licence is … just over the top.
“We are trying as hard as we can to stay afloat and to keep operations going, but I’m not the person that’s going to be able to fix this problem.”
A State Government spokeswoman said it was aware some taxi companies had stopped operating in some regional areas since the introduction the reform.
The reform included financial assistance for taxi drivers to help them adapt to the deregulation of the industry and the introduction of special licences for Uber drivers and others providing ride-booking services.
The financial support to regional taxi operators followed a massive backlash.
Rideshare can’t fill gap
The spokeswoman said there were now 368 rank and hail public transport vehicles under the new regulations in regional WA, compared to 342 taxi licences at the end of June 2017.
Despite the numbers, Mr Devenny said they had been losing drivers since the changes started.
He also said there were not enough rideshare services in regional areas to fill the gaps that taxi companies could no longer service.
“They thought that was going to happen with Uber as well, but that’s sort of gone by the wayside.”