Ride-sharing services like UberX have been given the green light to begin operating in South Australia from July 1, the state government announced.
As part of the reforms, the government will offer an assistance package to offset any impacts the new changes will have on those already operating in the industry.
The offer includes a $30,000 payment per taxi licence, $50 a week in compensation for a maximum of 11 months for licence lessees, and a freeze on new taxi licences for at least five years.
The compensation package will cost $31 million, while the halt on plate sales is estimated at $24 million and other measures are worth about $10 million.
The assistance package is to be funded by a $1 levy on all metropolitan trips.
SA Premier Jay Weatherill said the government had “worked hard to negotiate a balance” between existing services and new industry entrants.
“Our reforms deliver a genuine level playing field between taxis, chauffeur vehicles and new entrants like Uber,” he said.
“Some people have called for the total deregulation of this sector. We reject that.”
Taxis have exclusive rights to ranks
Mr Weatherill said the industry accounted for about “an eighth of all our public transport efforts” and the reforms were about making improvements.
“Improve the quality of the service, improve the choice that’s available for people and crucially drive the long-term sustainability of this business into the future,” he said.
“As only the third Australian jurisdiction to legalise ride-sharing, we are sending a message that South Australia is open for business.
“These reforms also provide a unique opportunity to further our efforts to make Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city by introducing incentives for those who adopt green vehicles.”
UberX has already been legalised in New South Wales and the ACT.
SA Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said “fundamental changes to an industry like this can be difficult”, but added the government had consulted widely.
Mr Mullighan also flagged “a long overdue fare increase” and the introduction of a new tariff which will apply for Friday and Saturday nights as well as public holidays to help boost taxi drivers’ remuneration.
Taxis will continue to have the exclusive right to work at ranks or be hailed.
All drivers and vehicles, including the new entrants like Ungogo, GoCatch, and Oiii, will need to comply with driver accreditation including police and working with children checks as well as vehicle roadworthiness standards.
There are 1,035 taxis licences and 102 access cab licences in SA and about eight million taxi trips are taken each year in the state.
A review was announced in June 2015.
The Uber app-based service currently operates Uber Black in SA, which uses licensed chauffeurs, but Uber X which allows ordinary people to use their own cars to taxi people has not be legal.