Residents of Western Victoria are set to benefit from some major changes to the way that taxi services are delivered to people with disabilities.
Minister for Public Transport, Lynne Kosky has launched some new initiatives that will enable people with disabilities to travel further and more often and stay better connected with their employers, families and wider communities.
Member for Western Victoria, Gayle Tierney said she was impressed by how extensively the changes consider the needs of people with disabilities and their right to have fair and equal access to taxi services.
The new initiatives focus on improving the Multi Purpose Taxi Program that subsidises taxi travel for people with severe and permanent disabilities who cannot independently access public transport.
Key changes include:
– Doubling the trip cap from $30 to $60 per trip from 13 December;
– Doubling the annual subsidy cap that applies to most members from $1090 to $2180;
– Introducing 330 new wheelchair accessible taxis (WATs) to help meet demand and improve response times for passengers. The WAT licences will allow the use of one-wheelchair WAT vehicles, which provide a better customer experience;
– Increasing the lifting fee from $10 to $14 per trip for WAT work across Victoria;
– Increasing the lifting fee paid to $7 per trip for WAT work for conventional taxis in non-metropolitan areas where wheelchairs can be stowed in the boot; and
– Cancelling the out of area subsidy that is currently paid to metropolitan taxi drivers. The increased lifting fee will offset the loss of this subsidy for drivers and is in the best interest of passengers.
A six-month trial of a Government-funded performance based booking system will be conducted to encourage improved WAT booking services. The trial will run in Geelong and Frankston, and if successful, will be rolled out across the State.
The Government has also introduced strict new operating conditions for NSPs including reporting on wheelchair job quotas, the number of WATs on the road at any one time, call centre ‘on-hold’ waiting times and complaints handling data to ensure people in wheelchairs get better customer service.
“The increase in the MPTP cap will help people enjoy a greater quality of life by enabling them to get out and about more. It will also benefit the local taxi operators by encouraging greater use of their service, which is good news for small business in these difficult times.
“It’s also good to see that taxi operators have been given new conditions to encourage them to provide higher levels of service to people in our community who are dependent on taxis to get around,” Ms Tierney said.
“The Labor Government is committed to making life easier for people in our community who need a hand, and I’ll continue to work with my State colleagues to ensure that the needs of people in Western Victoria are firmly on the agenda.”
As well as the improvements to the MPTP, the Government has announced some changes that affect the broader taxi industry.
Changes include a 6.1 per cent fare increase, an additional 200 metropolitan cabs to address demand, and a draft model bailment agreement for drivers and operators. These changes have been implemented with consideration of the Essential Services Commission’s recent independent review of the taxi fares and the industry.
In announcing these changes Ms Kosky commented that an injection of a further 200 taxis will enable the industry to provide better, more consistently reliable services and will establish stable career paths for those who work in the industry.
“A fare increase is necessary to ensure drivers are getting fairly remunerated, and assist operators fund higher operating costs like fuel and safety measures such as driver protection screens. This increase will only add an extra $1.20 to the average 10km fare of $19.68,” said Ms Kosky.
The Government is confident that the changes announced under this package will stand the taxi industry in good stead to be economically viable for the future and capable of providing excellent customer service to all its passengers.