Regional taxi companies are struggling to expand wheelchair taxi fleets because setup subsidies only apply if they are replacing existing vehicles.
Eastern Metro MP Rod Barton queried the Public Transport Minister yesterday on the governments commitment to improving wheelchair access services for the disabled in regional Victoria.
“Reforms to the commercial passenger vehicle industry have seen a boom in the number of vehicles on the streets of Melbourne, including a much appreciated boost to the number of wheelchair taxi services,” he said.
“However, this boom hasn’t been replicated in the regions where waiting times are still high, and where wheelchair taxi services struggle to carry the cost of putting specialised vehicles on the roads.”
Regional operators also face challenges of a much wider geographically spread demand for these specialised vehicles.
“For regional services the subsidy scheme has provided an incentive for taxi operators to invest in and operate these specialised vehicles.”
The CPVV website states:
“This Scheme reflects CPVV’s ongoing commitment to expand and maintain the accessibility of WAV services in urban, regional and country Victoria. The Scheme subsidises the purchase costs of a WAV, to make it a similar cost to a conventional unbooked service (taxi) vehicle. “
Mr Barton told parliament he was recently contacted by a Wodonga service keen to expand its wheelchair fleet to meet growing demand in its area. However, after going through the application process they discovered that despite information on the CPVV website, the subsidy is only available to replace existing services, not for expansion.
“The operator was told they would need to bear the costs of purchasing and refitting their new vehicles and I’ve asked the Minister to review subsidy rules to allow regional operators to expand to meet demand.”
Mr Barton said it was important these vehicles met the highest of safety standards and were operated by professional drivers.
“They need commercial passenger insurance and must be permanently branded and identifiable, with tamper-proof cameras and fixed metres, and meet the requirement of holding an annual road worthy certificate.
“They are transporting some of our most vulnerable citizens and I would not support cowboys in vans riding into town,” he said.
“Wheelchair access vehicle users need reassurance that these high standards of safety and professionalism continue.”