WA's regional taxi owners call on state ministers

Calls for the Transport Minister Rita Saffioti to meet with regional taxi operators to resolve issues with the on demand transport reforms are falling on deaf ears.

WA Country Taxi Operators Association secretary Julie Murray said the minister and premier continued to refuse to meet with regional operators.

Ms Murray said pressure was mounting on regional operators who have large legacy debts, increasing costs and new fees, making it impossible for many to continue.

"This is even harder for wheelchair taxi operators with modified vehicles costing approximately $60,000," she said.

"Many cannot afford all the new costs and fees so will close their businesses, like Kalgoorlie and Albany, leaving these towns with no wheelchair access taxis and maybe no taxis at all.

"A number of regional wheelchair taxis have already gone with more to go."

A Department of Transport spokesperson said there were 49 wheelchair accessible taxi vehicles registered in regional WA.

The spokesperson said the DoT was aware of three WAV taxis in regional areas that were not currently operating, although they still had active authorisation - two vehicles in Kalgoorlie and one in Albany.

Ms Murray said extra money the government had collected from a 10 per cent tax for its metro buy back scheme should be used to help regional small businesses that provided transport for seniors and disabled people.

"The Transport Minister should have the common decency to admit consultation did not happen and now meet with operators to work out solutions before it too late. What is she scared of?"

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the State Government was working with industry to meet the requirements of on-demand transport reforms through a range of communication and education activities, and has been doing so since the reforms passed Parliament in October 2018.

"Country taxis play an important role in our regions and the State Government understands how important a reliable and safe wheelchair taxi service is to the independence of wheelchair users," she said.

"The State Government will continue to work with current wheelchair taxi operators and new operators interested in operating in regional areas to help ensure continued and ongoing service.

"It's important to note that regional taxi operators are exempt from paying the on-demand passenger transport levy.

Ms Saffiotti said regional operators have been offered financial assistance through the $3.4 million Regional Taxi Transition Support Package and grants for the installation of security cameras and modifications in wheelchair accessible vehicles.

The opposition leader Liza Harvey said the issue with the new on-demand transport registration system in regional WA still needed to be addressed.

"The taxi service here in [Busselton] is the only one which is providing a service to people with disabilities and seniors, they are the marginal fares because it takes longer to get people in and out of vehicles," she said.

"They are a loss for most of those operators and what they are not getting is a is a fair share of the pie to balance off the loss transporting seniors and people with disabilities.

"There is a real risk we are going to lose that transport system for vulnerable people in regional communities, it is just not here, it is right across WA which has this problem.

"The minister really needs to meet with the operators and understand the issues they are facing and try and workshop some solutions because if that service goes you will have vulnerable people, and people with disabilities who are trapped in their homes.

Ms Harvey said the premier, the minister for transport and other ministers with great fanfare hopped on a train to go to the new Australind train station in the middle of nowhere.

"Why not come down to this region as part of that trip and meet with people who have a very serious concern?"

Ms Harvey said if the state government did not fix the regional taxi issue in WA then it would be up to government to step in to provide the service.

"It would mean taxpayers would be paying for a system that was previously operating perfectly well," she said.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said it was extraordinary that the minister was still refusing to meet with them.

"We raised a grievance last year and regional operators protesting at Parliament," she said.

"The minister gave an undertaking that she would consider their plight and what they were going through and now we are seeing regional plates being handed in across regional WA."