It has been pleasing to note that the NSW Taxi industry has seen some improvement in the demand for Taxis, since the easing of certain restrictions, recently announced by the NSW Government in June. These include:
Increase in the number of people allowed to socially gather
Re-opening of Restaurants, Cafes, Clubs and Pubs with social distancing guidelines
A slight increase in people returning to work in the Sydney CBD
The Queen’s birthday long weekend, which took place between 6th to 8th June 2020 saw some increase in Taxi patronage right across NSW. We were also delighted to hear of towns in Regional NSW reach capacity with accommodation and venues booked out at several locations during the long weekend. Moreover, improvement in demand further continued throughout the month of June, amidst slow and gradual lifting of restrictions by the Federal and State Government. We expect the demand for taxis to further improve as we go into July, when the restrictions are lifted further in NSW.
However, the NSW Taxi industry has seen a significant impact on the demand for Taxis’ since the COVID-19 pandemic hit NSW. We saw up to 90% drop in fares, particularly during the night-time trade, when the closure of Pubs, Clubs and other venues. We have also seen a significant drop in the day trade with no events and restrictions imposed at Sydney Airport, as well as airports across Regional NSW. Just across the March to April 2020 period, we had seen over 2,800 Taxi plates go on hold in Sydney Metropolitan Region, and 98 plates go on hold in Regional and Country NSW. These are the vehicles that have been de-registered and parked, as a result of the drop in demand. Operators found it near impossible to meet the high operating costs to keep a Taxi on the road, during these difficult times.
The NSW Government announced a $12.6 million Taxi Industry support package on 22 May 2020. The support package specifically focuses on reducing the costs involved in keeping the taxis on the road including the CTP, Registration and Insurances. This assistance will also provide much needed financial support for WAT vehicle owners, owners of registered taxis, holders of annual renewable Taxi licences as well as many service providers to get through this challenging and trying period.
The support package seems to be having some positive impact for eligible Operators looking to re-register their vehicles by 30 June 2020. A part of the support package provides support in the form of subsidy of $2900 to eligible Taxi vehicle owners/operators. There is no requirement to register for the subsidy online, cheques will be automatically printed and sent to the eligible vehicle owners by the government. The amount of the cheques will change depending on the number of eligible vehicles an operator owns e.g. one vehicle $2,900, two vehicles $5,800, etc. These cheques were expected to be printed and posted by the last week of June. We would anticipate most cheques to arrive in post boxes from the early weeks of July, depending on the postage timings.
Concern still lies with those Operators who deregistered their vehicles prior to 1 May 2020 and therefore are not eligible for the support package. Attention now is being turned towards how to see these 3,000 taxis become re-registered and get back into circulation.
Overall, whilst the industry continues to go through a tough and challenging period because of the bushfires in regional NSW in the beginning of the year and now, the global pandemic, the support from the government is critical for the NSW Taxi Industry to ride out the wave of these difficult times.
Taxis continue to provide an essential and safe mode of transport in clean and sanitised vehicles to the people of NSW as well as the vulnerable members of the NSW community, and follow the NSW wide guidelines issued by the Point to Point Transport Commission for COVID safe taxis.
There are also government funded Point to Point Transport vehicle sanitisation stations in operation in the metropolitan Sydney as well as in regional NSW, with Dubbo being the first Regional location. This is a complimentary service for all point to point transport passenger service providers, including all taxis in NSW, entitling them to one sanitisation, per taxi, per day to help minimise the spread of COVID-19 and further assist with maintaining driver and passenger safety.