NSW government to legalise Uber?

Controversial ride-sharing services could be allowed under new laws: reports.

Regulations for UberX drivers

Ride-sharing services such as Uber may be legalised in New South Wales before the year is out, according to NewsCorp, as part of a series of reforms to the taxi industry.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, the new laws will require Uber drivers to pay licensing fees and undergo vehicle safety checks, and UberX applicants won’t be granted a licence if they have a criminal record. That report says UberX drivers won't be allowed to pick up passengers from taxi ranks or on the street, as "rank and hail" services will remain exclusive to taxis.

But the office for Transport Minister Andrew Constance, along with NSW Premier Mike Baird, has refuted claims that such a decision has been made.

A report into ride-sharing by the Point to Point Transport Taskforce was commissioned by the state government, but a spokesperson for Mr Constance said that  [while]"the government has received the report from the Point to Point Taskforce ...[it] is considering its recommendations. It's still too early to pre-empt the report and our response, which will be released once a position is decided by Cabinet."

Uber has stirred up controversy around the country, with bodies such as the NSW Taxi Council questioning its legality. UberX is particularly contentious, as it essentially lets anyone turn their vehicle into a cab without having to work with state regulations. However, Uber has several mechanisms in place to protect customers, including stipulations that drivers must have a full licence and a clean driving record, and must also undergo criminal background checks.

Ride-sharing in the ACT

The ACT became the first Australian government to introduce ride-sharing legislation in October, in order to legalise and regulate UberX. This was in contrast to other jurisdictions, including NSW, which has so far attempted to restrict the service.

For example, the NSW Roads and Maritime Services issued 40 suspension notices to owners of vehicles involved in ride-sharing in late October. If the changes are to go ahead in NSW, they will be similar to those in the ACT.

Uber X and taxi trial

In September, CHOICE conducted a user trial of UberX and taxi services in NSW, to assess the affordability and reliability of each service. Our trial found that while taxis were 40% more expensive than UberX on average, they typically arrived in less time. In our report, we attributed this to the convenience of hailing a taxi off the street, as taxis usually took longer to arrive when booked.