TAXI operators in Warrnambool and district fear sweeping changes to their industry later this year will wipe hundreds of thousands of dollars off the value of their investment and erode industry confidence.
The proposed new system will reduce Victoria’s restrictive 100 taxi zones to four — metropolitan, urban, regional and country — and have three price structures.
Warrnambool Radio Taxis director Andrew Watson told The Standard that operators who had paid up to $300,000 to purchase a taxi licence in the city faced the prospect of their investment being virtually worthless under the new system.
“There will be no capital value in licences any more because under the new system licences will have to be leased at a set fee, which could be $15,000 a year in rural areas,” he said.
“For many of us it was our superannuation investment.
“It’s a can of worms and has created a lot of uncertainty. No one knows how many licences will be issued and whether there will be more cars in the fleets.”
Mr Watson said there were 19 taxi vehicles in Warrnambool, but at least another two were needed to handle peak periods and occasions when cars were out of town for hours on distant destinations.
Chief operating officer with 13CABS Stuart Overell said there was a general lack of investment confidence in the industry.
“The industry hasn’t moved forward in about two years,” he said.
“More people are buying second-hand vehicles because of the uncertainty.
“But a bigger issue that I see is the proposed system which may allow every taxi in Warrnambool to have a different price structure — that would lead to chaos across regional Victoria.”
Taxi Services Commission (TSC) chairman Graeme Samuel said the new zone structure would enhance competition by allowing operators to go anywhere within their zone and allow them to provide services where needed the most.
“Work is still under way to determine boundaries of the new zones and the TSC has not yet announced the proposed zone allocation for any area of Victoria,” he said.
“A draft determination and regulatory impact statement have been developed and will be made available for consultation soon, subject to Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission approval.
“The new zone system will come into effect later this year.”