The popular Gong Shuttle needs to have its hours and frequency cut back, according to the NSW Taxi Council.
Council CEO Roy Wakelin-King said the free service, which is subsidised by the NSW Government, has taken away business from taxi drivers.
“The operators here have been really challenged by that free shuttle bus,” Mr Wakelin-King said.
“When you look at all the free shuttle buses that run around the state, it is the most prolific in terms of the times that it operates, the frequencies that it operates. It has had a major impact on our operators and we think it needs to be rebalanced.
“We’re not advocating it be removed but we think that it’s operating hours and it’s frequency probably go a bit beyond what the genuine need is.”
The Gong Shuttle operates for 15 hours on weekdays – on a 10-minute cycle from 7am to 6pm and a 20-minute cycle until 10pm.
A Parramatta shuttle runs for 11 and a half hours on a 25-minute loop, and one in Newcastle operates on a 20-minute loop for five and a half hours on weekdays.
In the wake of the government’s reforms of the point to point transport industry, which opens taxis to increased competition from rideshare services like UberX, the council believes the free shuttle has an unfair advantage.
The operators here have been really challenged by that free shuttle bus.Roy Wakelin-King
“You can’t compete with free,” Mr Wakelin-King said.
“Wherever you’ve got subsidised transport, obviously there is a competitive advantage that the provider of this transport has because they’re having their revenue funded by the state to offset their operating costs.
“Clearly they do have an advantage.”
Mr Wakelin-King said the taxi council was asking the government to ensure this service doesn’t have “unintended consequences” in terms of limiting competition.
A Transport for NSW spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the Gong Shuttle’s operating hours were appropriate.
“Transport for NSW reviewed the Wollongong Shuttle service in 2013 and it was retained due to the service’s strong patronage and important customer benefits for people who may not be able to afford a personal transport service like a taxi,” the spokeswoman said.
“The service does not operate any differently in terms of hours or frequency compared to other shuttles in NSW.”