THERE’S tension in the air among Warrnambool taxi operators after at least seven of them broke ranks to sign with an alternative Melbourne-based despatch system.
As of Sunday there will be two separate booking numbers — the first major split among operators since 1985 when two former companies merged to form Warrnambool Radio Taxis.
However, the breakaway group already promoting its new 13CAB number is yet to formally notify the longstanding parent company, which still has them on the membership list.
“It’s a legally grey area,” Warrnambool Radio Taxis spokesman Andrew Watson told The Standard yesterday.
“We are acutely aware many of our clients have been led to believe that recent developments could mean Warrnambool Radio Taxis and our contact number 131008 will cease operation.
“I can categorically assure everyone in south-west Victoria that this is absolutely not the case.
“We have a long and proud tradition in this region of providing people with a friendly, efficient transportation service for almost four decades and this will continue along with our number.”
He said he was confident the company would retain a fleet of 12 vehicles, including three which were wheelchair accessible, plus about 40 drivers.
“We will retain our operational base in Warrnambool and we are taking steps to ensure our service is not only maintained, but improved for our many clients,” Mr Watson said.
It is understood some Warrnambool operators had been unhappy over glitches in their 131008 despatch system and sought out 13CAB which is part of the huge Black Cab Combined group.
Last week 13CAB told The Standard eight Warrnambool taxi operators had signed up to its high-tech booking system and more were expected to follow.
However, Mr Watson disputed that figure and said he anticipated only seven would defect.
He predicted passengers could have to wait longer for cabs because the overall pool of vehicles had been split into two.
“And there will have to be more driver shifts to cover the busy times,” he said.
“There will be no price advantage for passengers because it’s a tightly regulated industry.
“The only difference will be two phone numbers.”