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Uber answers call for more taxis at Canberra Airport ahead of review of industry

The ACT government's review of the taxi industry will consider the number of licences in operation alongside the introduction of ride-share businesses such as Uber.

Canberra Airport called for licence numbers to be considered as part of capacity concerns in the review announced on Wednesday by Chief Minister Andrew Barr. The study of customer service, competition and regulation into the city's taxi network comes as the smartphone application-based business considers entry into the capital market. 

Uber claims to have already completed more than 1 million rides in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. The popular service allows users to book taxis and limousines via smartphone.

Its Uber X service also gives any motorist, not just licensed operators, the ability to charge for providing transport.

Part of the ACT review will consider taxi pricing, including surcharges on electronic payments and other surcharges applied nationally.

"We welcome the review and applaud any initiative that aims to improve transport services for the travelling public, both leisure and business," a spokeswoman for Canberra Airport said.


"We are all for innovation and we welcome in particular the focus on consumer choice and competitiveness in the taxi industry. We believe a review of how technology might enhance efficiency and value in the sector should be done in tandem with considering the fundamental capacity issues."

The spokeswoman said Canberra Airport sought an increase in the number of Canberra taxi licences "so that local providers are able to meet demand from passengers at peak times, which is only going to increase with the introduction of direct international flights to and from Canberra Airport." 

There are currently 378 taxi licences issued in Canberra and 327 taxis active on the network.

Formal terms of reference for the review will be released by the government as part of a planned discussion paper, which will come before the community consultation process in early to mid-2015.

Insurance Council of Australia director Campbell Fuller said drivers offering their services as part of Uber X were acting illegally in Australia and commercial activity would jeopardise standard car insurance policies. 

"These services are illegal in every state and territory. As a condition of purchasing insurance, you're not allowed to use that vehicle for any illegal activities," he said. 

"If you are involved in a collision and you are offering these services then under the conditions of the policy, you are probably not going to be covered for the damage to your vehicle or any damage you cause. That could mean potentially liability in the thousands or tens or thousands of dollars." 

Mr Fuller called on the ACT Government to consider the insurance implications from changes to the transport landscape. 

Western Australian transport officials told prospective Uber drivers they would be breaking the law at an information session held on Tuesday.  

Prospective drivers were stopped by compliance officers from the state's Department of Transport waiting just outside the venue's entrance and warned that driving for Uber was against the law.

Uber has reportedly been advertising for Canberra-based drivers on social media in recent days. A company spokeswoman would not confirm if or when services would begin. 

Mr Fuller said Uber's arrival could also require changes to compulsory third-party insurance arrangements. 

"CTP schemes are geared towards the driver and use of the vehicle, and for example if it is being used for a commercial or personal purpose. With a commercial use, the nature of the CTP insurance, and the premium paid, would change," Mr Fuller said. 

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