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NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance says fines continue for UberX drivers, flags overhaul of taxi regulation

The NSW government will continue to keep fining UberX drivers, Transport Minister Andrew Constance says.

And the minister says he is close to outlining a new process to look at regulation of the taxi industry, struggling with the competition provided by the fast-growing ride-sharing service.
“We have a disruptive technology which is having an impact, and I am wanting to find the right regulatory framework which puts taxis in particular on a level playing field,” said Mr Constance.

The minister, who took over from new Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian after the March election, used an interview on the topic with Fairfax Media to indicate his focus would be on reducing the costs of running a taxi.

And he said he would continue to refuse to meet with Uber, whose UberX platform has been operating in Sydney for over a year, until he had laid out a new path for regulation of the industry.

“I will get to a point where I’m willing to consult with all parties but at the moment I just need to make sure that we’ve got a process in train,” Mr Constance said.

The state government’s pricing body, the Independent, Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, has called on the government to charge a regulator with examining all forms of “point-to-point” transport – such as taxis and ride-sharing services.

The government has yet to respond to that recommendation, though Mr Constance said he wanted to move fast.

“I’ve had some constructive engagement with the Taxi Council and I’ll be moving on it as quickly as I can,” he said.

He said drivers using the UberX booking platform would continue to be pursued because they were in breach of the Passenger Transport Act, which allows only accredited taxi and hire car operators can take bookings.

“From my perspective you have a group of people who are obviously dismissive of the Passenger Transport Act, you’ve got another group of people who … are very regulated,” Mr Constance said.

“And everyone’s saying we want a level playing field.”

Drivers who use their own cars to book jobs through UberX avoid tens of thousands in costs incurred by taxi drivers.

According to an IPART study, a taxi operator last year would have paid over $27,000 to hire licence plates: NSW about $11,000 in insurance, almost $9000 in vehicle lease costs, and over $7000 in network fees.

Competition from Uber has, however, contributed to falling cost for renting or buying a taxi licence plate. The cost of buying a licence plate has dropped to its lowest level in over six years.

Roy Wakelin-King, the chief executive of the Taxi Council, said he would “welcome a process that has a proper look at the regulatory framework for the taxi industry.”

“There is a strong prevailing sense of injustice in our industry where people who do the right thing and comply with the law are observing others apparently getting away with it,” Mr Wakelin-King said.

“And where that costs money and has financial impacts on owners, operators and drivers that sense of injustice is very strong.”

While Mr Constance has not yet met with Uber, Ms Berejiklian met with the company in February to discuss ride-sharing.

New NSW Upper House MP, Labor’s Daniel Mookhey, on Monday called on the government to embrace companies such as Uber, rather than fine drivers.

Uber has called on the government to put in place “sensible, safety-based” regulations for the ride-sharing industry, and has emphasised its potential as a source of jobs.

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