Hunter taxi drivers to lobby state government to end ride-sharing Uber app

THE taxi industry has brought its battle with Uber to the Hunter, with NSW Taxi Council chief executive Roy Wakelin-King calling on the region’s drivers, operators and owners to lobby the state government in a bid to eradicate the  ride-sharing app.

Mr Wakelin-King addressed more than 100 taxi drivers at Mayfield RSL Club on Tuesday, with ride-sharing and the infiltration of the US Company Uber into the Australian market major topics for debate.

Uber provides a range of transport services, including a ‘‘ride-sharing’’ component called UberX, which connects an individual in a private motor vehicle with a passenger. The booking is facilitated over the app and the provider takes a clip of the ticket, usually about 20per cent. 

The NSW government has declared the operation illegal and has begun cracking down and fining drivers and operators. 

Mr Wakelin-King stressed the issue the taxi industry had with Uber related not to technology, but ‘‘fair and equitable competition’’. 

‘‘The government has set standards and all we are asking for is that everyone complies with them,’’ Mr Wakelin-King said. ‘‘We compete in a very robust market, we understand that, but you can’t have organisations coming into the country and thumbing their nose at the law.

‘‘We are trying to stress that this app is unsafe, there are no checks and balances, there is no duress alarm, no security cameras. It is not only unsafe for the passenger, but for the driver.’’

Former taxi driver and now University of Newcastle PhD student Ben Heslop was at the forum and said he thought the taxi industry needed to recognise the ‘‘massive gap’’ in the market that Uber and other applications were meeting.

‘‘I think they should be creating a second-tier service of mini-buses where you can put more people into a cab using some smart technology to try and match up routes and offer people lower fares,’’ he said.

Mr Heslop saw the service being provided while in Europe and thought it had potential to work in Australia. He said the taxi industry was not thinking about how to attract a younger audience and appeared to be approaching the Uber problem with ‘‘blind fear’’.

Mr Heslop has begun working on an idea for a mini-bus service called Travelling Public, which he says would be popular with the student market and night-time economy. 

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