Taxi drivers protest over UberX access to Melbourne airport

A screen shot of the Uber taxi app in Brisbane Source: AAP

Taxi operators say allowing UberX to pick up fares from the Airport will breaking the back of the taxi industry.

Taxi drivers in Melbourne are protesting against access to the airport for ride sharing service UberX that they say would break the back of the industry. 

Narinder Garg, a taxi operator said despite the new legislation regulating ride-sharing services, the cost of operating a taxi was still “significantly higher” than an UberX. He said allowing UberX to operate at the airport will break the back of taxi operators like himself.

“We have been able to sustain so far because taxis could pick up big fares from the airport. But now that UberX has been allowed [to pick up fares from the airport], passengers are more likely to call an Uber [X] because that’s cheaper due to its low operating cost,” he told SBS Punjabi.

“The anger is about the special treatment Uber is getting here. We are not against the Uber but we want a level playing field,” taxi driver Narain Singh Grewal told SBS Punjabi.

The Victorian ridesharing legislation which has legalised Uber operations also restructures the taxi licensing system to bring its costs down. But Mr Garg says it hasn’t yet taken effect and the taxi was still more expensive to operate due to its high registration and insurance costs.  

Passengers catching flights Wednesday morning were told to plan ahead after taxi drivers blocked roads leading to the airport from Tuesday night.

Some protesting taxi drivers who blocked roads to the airport terminals overnight were issued fines for refusing fares.

On Wednesday, angry taxi drivers have planned another protest at the airport in case their meeting with the airport authorities failed to redress the issue. However, a spokesperson for the Melbourne airport told the Herald Sun there was no meeting scheduled.

As the strike on Tuesday night led to many passengers getting stranded, coaches gave free rides to them from the airport to the city.

“We had alternate transport modes at locations organised very quickly and we had additional Sky buses put on for people who did not want to wait for a taxi,” chief of ground transport at the airport Lorie Argus told Seven News.

There was an increased security presence and more tow trucks parked at the airport entrance on Wednesday morning if the last night’s blockade were to be repeated.    

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