NSW will not change passenger laws to accommodate UberX

Transport for NSW has confirmed it will not be making any changes to the Passenger Transport Act, despite the increasing popularity of ride sharing apps.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Despite the controversy booking app company Uber has been causing amongst the public transport space with its new pilot, Transport for NSW has announced it will not be making any changes to the law relating to public passenger services.

Uber Sydney has been piloting a program known as UberX — which has already been banned in some US states and in some parts of Europe — where it encourages regular members of the public, as well as taxi drivers, to transport paying passengers with their private vehicles.  

A Transport for NSW spokesperson has warned any NSW driver taking paying passengers, the driver and the vehicle must operate in accordance to the existing Passenger Transport Act, and if they don't they could face prosecution and fines of up to AU$110,000.

"Under the Act, such services must be provided in a licensed taxi or hire car, by an appropriately accredited driver, authorised by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)," the spokesperson said.

"The Act requires drivers to be fit and proper persons and vehicles to comply with specific standards to ensure an appropriate standard of safety for customers."

The RMS is responsible for enforcing the Passenger Transport Act, and any driver authorised by the RMS undergoes a police check.

NSW Taxi Council CEO Roy Wakelin-King has urged the state government to clamp down on Uber's plans for UberX. 

"The services being offered by Uber are not authorised under any relevant public transport law and therefore action must be taken to protect the public interest. The industry, through taxi networks, is accountable under the law for ensuring there are effective safety and reliability systems in place for passengers and drivers and that detailed records of each and every journey, driver and vehicle is kept for these purposes," he said.

"UberX has none of these regulatory measures in place and this therefore poses an unacceptable risk to the public. UberX has already attracted concern amongst transport regulators in some parts of the US and Europe and action has been taken to protect the public as a consequence."

Earlier this month, the then-NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell and Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian proposed a three point plan that will see a series of new passenger transport laws introduced to ensure that all taxis offering services to customers — whether via apps and other booking services, at ranks or by street hails — must be licensed taxis with authorised drivers and using the taxi meter.

Under the plan, typical surcharge on card fare payments will be capped at 5 percent and for the first time booking apps provided by taxi networks will have to meet a full range of customer service, privacy, and safety standards.

Both the surcharge and mobile booking app reforms will come into effect later in 2014.

The third part of the taxi industry overhaul will be enhancing enforcement of vehicle safety and maintenance. Transport for NSW, NSW Police Force, and Roads and Maritime Services will work with the taxi industry to improve spot checks to ensure the safety of customers and drivers.

Despite recent leadership changes to the NSW government, Transport of NSW has confirmed the proposals will still be going ahead.

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