I have written to the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Hon. Catherine King to express my concerns regarding the Melbourne Airport taxi rank and holding bay.
I am writing regarding the actions of Melbourne Airport security guards in unnecessarily and unethically restricting taxi services at the taxi rank.
As a former taxi driver and now a voice for the commercial passenger vehicle industry in the Victorian parliament, I often receive communications from taxi drivers who provide firsthand experiences of the challenges in the industry.
Recently, I have received a number of complaints that allege Melbourne Airport security guards are not allowing taxi drivers to wait for passengers at the taxi rank outside Terminal 4. At Melbourne Airport, there is a taxi holding bay that can hold upwards of 150 taxis. This holding bay exists to hold the taxi drivers that are unable to fit at the taxi rank and ensures that all taxi operators are following protocol and paying the airport levy.
Unfortunately, Melbourne Airport security guards have been repeatedly not allowing any taxi drivers to sit at the taxi rank, rather, they wait until a passenger asks for a taxi and then call a taxi from the holding bay. This process is inefficient. However, the reality is far worse.
I have had multiple industry stakeholders inform me that security guards are letting passengers wait at the taxi rank anywhere from 15-45 minutes before allowing a taxi to travel from the holding bay. During this time, there are reports that the security are encouraging these individuals to download the Uber app and catch an Uber instead. Drivers have consistently informed me that when they eventually are allowed at the taxi rank to pick up a passenger, the passengers are reporting having waited over half an hour.
In response to these allegations, Melbourne Airport have made claims that the taxi drivers making these complaints are attempting to reach the taxi rank without paying the airport levy, however, this is false. These taxi drivers have captured this evidence, as they have left their vehicles at the holding
bay where they are forced to wait and have witnessed queues of passengers waiting for a taxi. On other occasions, when one vehicle is eventually called to the taxi rank, they arrive and see many passengers waiting for a taxi.
I have attached a number of videos and statements from both drivers and passengers who have experienced this firsthand.
My concern is that this is not just the actions of a number of security guards, but an informal policy of Melbourne Airport. Earlier this year, Uber paid Melbourne Airport to remove a taxi rank and replace it with an Uber rank. The conditions of this agreement have not been released to the Victorian public. To this day, we do not know how much Uber paid for this rank.
It is clearly an unethical restriction of trade for these security guards to hold taxis at the holding bay while passengers are queued up at the taxi rank waiting for a taxi. To then inform these passengers that they should choose an Uber undermines both their personal preferences and the work of hundreds of small business owners.
This treatment of passengers who choose to use taxis severely damages tourists’ first impression of both Melbourne and Australia and creates greater angst for those with disabilities who require wheelchair accessible taxis. I urge you to engage Melbourne airport to ascertain why we have been receiving these reports over the past few months.
ROD BARTON MP