With ride-sharing via apps such as Uber taking off in Melbourne and Sydney, it seemed like it was a mere matter of time before someone with a legislative axe to grind found a way to put a halt to things. In New South Wales, that is now the case. Transport NSW has clarified how ride-sharing championed by the Uber model fits into the pre-existing Passenger Transport Act.
Uber is part of an emerging ride-sharing trend that connects users in need of a lift with people in cars willing to drive. Payments are made via credit card, so no actual money changes hands or is kept on board by any of the drivers, and the cost to the passengers are, in some cases, up to 50% less expensive than regular taxi services.
Until now, ride-sharing has only been allowed in Sydney and Melbourne, but it appears now that Sydney will be off-limits to the service. In a statement from the NSW Transport department, they clarified the legislation’s application to the emerging phenomenon, “The law is clear and has not changed: if a NSW driver is taking paying members of the public as passengers, the driver and the vehicle must operate in accordance with the Passenger Transport Act.”
In essence, no driver can accept payment for a taxi-like service unless they are properly trained and have received accreditation as stated in the Act. Those who operate in breach of the act could face prosecution and fines that run to a maximum of a whopping $110,000.
It’s important to note that Uber’s other functions, that being a premium car service and taxi connecting app, remain incredibly legal. But it’s the ride-sharing aspect where customers have the option of connecting directly to private cars that’s coming under scrutiny from Transport NSW.
Uber’s Sydney manager David Rohrsheim recently appeared on the Today show the defend and explain the service, stating that what they’re doing, ultimately, is “offering people a choice.”
UPDATE: As clarification to this story, Uber remains a perfectly legal way to connect people to private taxis and hire-car drivers. However what’s in question is the ride-sharing ability for people to connect with people, in essence, offering lifts.
Photo: Lionel Bonaventure via Getty Images.