The State Government today announced plans to transform Western Australia's highly regulated on-demand transport industry with interim initiatives scheduled for implementation in 2016.
Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the proposed reforms would create a more level playing field for WA's on-demand or taxi industry with increased accountability, competition and service quality from all transport providers and safer, more reliable and affordable services for customers.
"Changing customer expectations, the emergence of new market entrants and three separate reports into WA's taxi industry have highlighted the need for a significant overhaul of the current rules and regulations for on-demand transport and taxis in this State," Mr Nalder said.
"The proposed reforms will reduce red tape, address cost disparities and unnecessary operating conditions imposed on current metropolitan government-leased taxi plate holders and privately owned taxi plate holders in both metropolitan and regional areas.
"Under these new measures, taxi operators will be freed up to adapt to customer's demand and take on competition. We believe WA's on-demand or taxi industry will continue to grow, provided drivers and owners adopt innovation and technology to provide a better service and accept greater accountability for the services they provide to the community.
"Taxi rank and hail work will only be open to traditional taxis."
The Minister said the State's first major industry reform in 20 years would deliver more flexible and innovative transport options to customers and allow new market entrants to operate services lawfully in WA.
"The Government's reform agenda presents both an exciting and challenging period of transformation for the industry in both metropolitan and regional WA," he said.
The State Government's reforms will be introduced in two stages, with the interim measures - largely achieved through changes to regulations - to be introduced in July 2016. The second stage of reform will involve legislation.
Key interim measures include:
- creating a new omnibus licence category to encourage new market entrant drivers and vehicle owners to comply with essential requirements
- encouraging metropolitan and regional taxi operators to use technology to grow both their charter as well as their rank and hail business
- introducing a cost recovery model for all licence categories - significantly reducing metropolitan government-leased taxi plate fees and increasing omnibus and regional taxi-car licence plate fees
- removing the current individual ownership cap of five plates under the Taxi Act 1994
- removing the current minimum $60 hire charge for small charter vehicles
- introducing mandatory standards for all drivers entering the industry to maintain driver and customer safety and security
- allowing existing and new taxi and omnibus operators to affiliate with multiple dispatch services (subject to existing operators renegotiating existing arrangements)
- removing licence conditions including restrictions on operating times and mandatory operating hours on weekends and public holidays
- developing a transition assistance package to support industry innovation and a hardship fund for taxi plate owners.
Mr Nalder said the industry would be consulted on the implementation of these interim measures, including the structure of, and eligibility criteria for, a proposed transition assistance program and hardship fund.
"While we believe that these changes represent a great opportunity for the entire on-demand transport industry to modernise and refresh, we do recognise that the proposed reforms will present transition and hardship challenges to some in the industry," he said.
"Current plate owners will be able to access professional support to adapt their current business to continue to operate successfully within the WA market in the future."
The drafting of a new, single On-demand Transport Act is expected to start later next year.
"This reform is a high priority for Government and we will work as quickly as possible to introduce and finalise legislation to provide certainty to the industry," the Minister said.
"We want a simpler approach to regulating the industry, improving service and achieving and maintaining accountability. We still need to do a lot of work with taxi plate owners, drivers and dispatch providers on the details including requirements for cameras, an accountability framework and penalty provisions.
"Taxis are - and will always be - an important part of the State's transport mix and provide a valuable service for West Australians in both metropolitan and regional areas. We are encouraging the industry to transition to a more flexible, innovative and customer-focused industry to better serve the needs of customers throughout the State."
For more information about on-demand transport reform, visit http://www.transport.wa.gov.au/greenpaper
Green paper outlining proposed reforms was released for public comment in mid-2015
More than 5,800 public submissions were received
Submissions supported less red tape, mandatory essential driver standards/training and greater industry accountability
There are currently 2,527 privately owned and Government leased taxi plates in WA
Minister's office - 6552 6400