By Luke Voogt
A taxi company’s plans to carve a slice of the Geelong market have sparked a cab war in the city.
Geelong operator Peter Valentine slammed the rival company’s claim that it would increase the city’s taxi services.
“I don’t think it will be better service,” he said.
Last week 13CABS promoted its “imminent” Geelong expansion promising to boost the number of taxis.
But rather than increasing services, the company was attempting to “poach” his drivers, Mr Valentine said.
“Our taxi drivers have reported people at ranks handing leaflets to them.
“If that’s what you’re doing – that’s not expanding the fleet is it? That’s taking them from one cab and putting them in another.”
Mr Valentine has run the only taxi company in Geelong since taking over operation of Bay City Cabs more than a decade ago.
“We run an excellent service,” he said.
According to 13CABS, Geelong has a low taxi to population ratio, with roughly 160 cabs for more than 220,000 people.
But Mr Valentine said the existing taxi network covered Geelong’s needs and expansion would disrupt the existing system, which was already competing with ride-sharing service Uber.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a growing need for taxi cabs – a lot of people don’t use taxis.”
Mr Valentine said 13CABS was already despatching nine taxis in the new Bellarine Peninsula and Torquay regional zone.
He labelled the system “inefficient” saying customers often called both companies to see which taxi could arrive first.
“We’ve already lost five (drivers) over the last 12 months. If those cars were a united service it would be a much better system.”
Mr Valentine was concerned that the company could expand into Geelong before the Victorian Parliament passed the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill.
The bill would be the biggest shake up of the Victoria’s taxi laws in decades and sought to adapt the industry to the arrival of Uber.
The lower house was scheduled to redebate the bill in August after the upper house amended it in the last sitting of parliament.
“I have no problem with competition,” Mr Valentine said. “I do have a problem with competition when there’s not a set of rules.”
The Geelong Taxi Network chief operating officer pointed out reports in December 2016 of 13CABS operating ‘private hire’ taxis to compete with Uber.
13CABS confirmed to The Age that private hire cars were operating in the Mornington Peninsula to avoid paying taxi licences and registration fees.
“They’re quite likely to do the same thing in Geelong,” Mr Valentine said.
“You see some of the worst taxi cabs because the government’s dropped the rules.”
But 13CABS general manager David Samuel said the expansion meant the “wait is over for Geelong taxi users”.
Mr Samuel said Geelong’s growing population required a larger taxi service.
“In a growing region like Geelong it’s no surprise there’s huge demand for taxi services.
“That’s why we’re committed to getting more drivers and taxis on the road to help get people to their destination.”
The company has launched a recruiting drive ahead of its Geelong launch.
“The first step is to recruit drivers who are committed to the high standards of the 13CABS network.”
13CABS driver Manish Dhawan described Geelong as a great place to work.
“I’ve been driving for nine years and have loved working at the heart of this community,” he said.
“As our town has grown, so has the demand, and that’s been a really positive thing for local cabbies.”