Taxis under pressure

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Under the pump: Taxi companies in Echuca Moama are being criticised for long waits and, in some instances, cancelled trips due to not being able to fulfil requests.

A Facebook post on the Echuca Moama Community Page raising concerns over taxi shortages, taxi delays and no-show taxis has forced a response from taxi operators.

Complaints primarily revolved around bookings being made in advance with taxi companies not being honoured and people missing vital appointments as a result.

Several comments also revealed instances of people waiting multiple hours before being picked up and eventually having their trip cancelled.

Concerns were raised by members in the group about call centres using automated systems and not being reliable when pre-booking a trip.

As companies like Echuca Moama Taxi have grown their fleet they have begun to outsource to a call centre in Brisbane, rather than using a system where drivers can contact passengers directly.

One comment in support of the taxi services said people within the community “should be thanking the taxi drivers” and continued to say that “sometimes taxi drivers can work 16-18 hour shifts while putting themselves at risk of COVID’’.

Phil Birrell, from Rich River Corporate Taxi, said there was a massive amount of pressure on taxis, particularly during the pandemic.

Mr Birrell said every business was short staffed, not just in the restaurant industry, but within the taxi industry as well.

“(During COVID) I lost most of my staff, I got down to one staff member ... she would be working 16 hours a day,’’ Mr Birrell said.

“The thing to consider is that if you go out for a meal anywhere, they’re short staffed, maybe the customer service is lacking, but we accept it because it’s COVID and these guys are under the pump.

‘’It’s the same for us.

“We’ve also got roadworks near the police station and that’s taken a major thoroughfare out of town.

“We’ve got roadworks happening up in Moama and we’ve got the other roadworks that are happening around town.

“Sometimes that can add 10 minutes to our journey. We can do about four jobs an hour (for each car), but with the traffic we can maybe do two jobs an hour.”

Some community members on Facebook mentioned that a potential solution could be to introduce Uber to Echuca/Moama.

Mr Birrell said Uber was not the solution.

“Uber uses a different pricing scheme, the busier they get, or the longer the wait, the more you pay. That’s industry standard for Uber,” he said.

“Prices will go up and the quality of drivers that you get locally will diminish.

“At the end of the day everything we do stays local and is local.

“It’s that local knowledge from local drivers that help to promote the town — the knowledge that’s passed out onto our tourists.”

When asked how he thought the taxi industry in town could be improved, Mr Birrell said he could speak only for his own business.

“I’ve got great staff, I’ve got a great personalised phone system and I’m a small company,” he said.

“The only way I can help my customers is to add more cars to the fleet as required.”

Rich River Corporate Taxi service is hoping to add another car to the fleet soon.

Echuca and Moama are known to hold a large number of events and it is during these peak periods that added strain on the taxi industry is causing enhanced problems.