ACT News

Uber goes live in Canberra with more than 100 drivers registered

Canberra's newest transport service has hit the road on Friday, as ride-sharing services including Uber began operating under new government regulation.

Uber will charge a base fare of $2.35 on ACT roads, plus 45 cents per minute or $1.35 per kilometre. The minimum fare is $6 and users will pay a $10 charge for cancellation.

New Canberra Uber driver Ulli Brunnschweiler
New Canberra Uber driver Ulli Brunnschweiler Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Passengers could book services from lunchtime via the company's smartphone application.

Australian general manager David Rohrsheim offered no specific take up numbers but said more than 100 drivers had already registered to offer trips to ACT passengers. He urged patience from consumers as the business became established in the capital and faced busy tourism and parliamentary sitting periods.

Rival businesses OnTap and GoCatch are also expected to take bookings from Friday.

Mr Rohrsheim praised the ACT government's warm embrace of the multibillion-dollar business, becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to offer legal ride-sharing services and promising not to fine drivers or passengers.

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He said Uber fares would be 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than taxis but fares will increase during peak demand and Uber's "surge pricing" periods.

"I hope safety is everyone's top concern, it certainly is for us," Mr Rohrsheim said. "Globally we arrange over one million rides a day so safety has to be a top priority and I think it has been for the regulations that have been put in place here."

Drivers face criminal history checks, driving record checks and vehicle inspections. He said dozens of applications had been rejected so far in Canberra.

"In Sydney... six months after our launch, 10 per cent of the city is using the service and it has only grown since then," he said.

Semi-retired artist Ulli Brunnschweiler said she had registered to drive in Canberra as a way to stay active and top up her personal savings.

"I love driving and its a great new thing for me to be involved in. I would not have come on board if it was not regulated," she said.

"I imagine I will be doing quite a bit of driving in the first instance. I will be a day driver and will leave other people to drive at night.

Ms Brunnschweiler said friends and family had already used Uber overseas and interstate.

"I have followed the history of Uber very closely and I commend the government here for acting so fast to regulate it and make sure passengers are safe," she said.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said existing taxis and hire cars would benefit from concessions connected with the arrival of ride-sharing. Existing government fees and charges will be lowered, including a $10,000 reduction in the annual lease fees for government-owned taxi licences and annual hire car licence lease fees dropping from $4600 to $100.

Mr Barr said other Australians state and territory governments had contacted the ACT about its ride-sharing regulation. Further changes to Canberra's transport options are planned in a second tranche of legislation to be considered by the Legislative Assembly.

"There are a few other state and territories that have taken a really bad approach to the sharing economy," Mr Barr said.

"I'm calling on other leaders around the country to look at the ACT model and put that in place across the country because it will enhance productivity, it will support innovation and it will lead to better outcomes for Australians regardless of where they live."