Cab operators across western NSW have spoken of their fears of lost jobs and a drop in service to the community if a draft proposal by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal is accepted.
More than 30 operators and drivers from across the region made their way to Dubbo on Tuesday for the IPART hearing and their message for chairman Peter Boxall and the rest of the panel was clear.
If a draft proposal that included an extra 146 taxis in regional areas was brought in, along with a fare freeze, local services will fold, they said.
There was plenty of emotion in the room as operators made their case. Most indicated they were already struggling to make a profit after paying running costs and wages.
Others said the value of their taxi licence had halved in the last few years.
Michael Phillips of Orange Taxis said existing operators could be “annihilated” if others were to join in.
“The major issue is … we are operating on less than a basic wage as our personal income. That is unsustainable into the future with competition that could come into an area,” he said.
“On a Saturday night there might not be enough cabs to handle the issue but on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night, and some places on a Thursday night, there are far too many cabs.”
I can’t get drivers and I can’t afford to leave it parked in the driveway so here I am at 76 picking up drunks at 3am in the morning.Ray Stapleton
Bathurst’s Ray Stapleton said he had broken a promise to his family to retire at 75 because he hadn’t been able to sell his licence.
“Because of the uncertainty in the industry since December 2015 I simply cannot retire. I’ve been in the industry for 30 years,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to talk my driver into buying the cab, he has been with me since 2001, but when this draft came out and we heard how damaging this was going to be, I offered him my plates at half price to try and talk him into it. He dropped out.
“It has shattered my future. I can’t get drivers and I can’t afford to leave it parked in the driveway so here I am at 76 picking up drunks at 3am in the morning.”
Mudgee’s Ken Burns said he ran a service that met demand in the town but he has faced competition from local bus companies.
"I can't see any future for any of us if this is passed and goes through,” he said.
“We'll all go broke, belly up. No one will be out there to take sick people to hospital after midnight and get drunk people home.”