Taxi service trial is struggling, at only 54 per cent of capacity
AN attempt by Myrtleford’s James and Denise Wei to revive a community taxi service may come to nothing unless it secures a significant jump in fare pick-ups.
The Myrtleford doctor and his wife – who launched a threemonth trial on August 21 to enable them to test demand for cab hire in Alpine Shire’s main Ovens Valley communities – told the Times Observer last week that the trial was slated to fail given the current level of hiring.
“Five to six weeks in we are running at 54 per cent capacity of what the service used to be prior to it shutting down in December, 2016, and bleeding $1000 per month just for operational costs,” Dr Wei said.
“In the past three weeks hiring has essentially stagnated.”
The Weis set out to assess the need for a local service by arranging with the Wilson family, which operated Myrtleford’s former taxi service, to lease their still-valid carriage licence.
The couple also made a hybrid car available for the trial and secured the necessary Taxi Commission and VicRoads’ approvals.
“We have promoted ourselves to all community groups, launched a campaign to assist clients through the complex application process for a taxi subsidy card, and also aggressively targeted the tourist market,” Dr Wei said.
“It is certainly our hope that things will pick up in the next few weeks, but it if does not we will have to pull the plug.
“We have also appealed to the combined service clubs to see if they are able to assist us financially to extend the trial to six to nine months to enable it to reach its full potential.
“In this case, we really need the support of the community if this is going to work out.
“If we are able to restore the service, back to where it was prior to its abrupt closure nine months ago, the service will actually run at an operational profit of $20,000 per annum.
“This will enable us to re-invest (the profit) into the service to expand it across the shire.”
The Weis’ limited-distance trial has included service to and from Bright, Wandiligong, Porepunkah, Myrtleford and Wangaratta but not Mount Beauty.
The pair also engaged three drivers – Alan Muller, Arnold Sparks and Gail Dawson – to staff the service on a time-tabled roster Monday-Thursday 8am-5pm, Friday 8am-12am, Saturday 8am-2pm and 6pm-12am, and Sunday 8am-2pm.
Mr Muller told the Times Observer that the trial had started well late in August and had enjoyed good demand during Myrtleford’s and Bright’s recent sporting season finals, but uptake had become patchy day-to-day.
Dr Wei said at the trial’s start that the service had to be viable for it to continue.
“I guess we do have a threshold and if it’s not really breaking even (at the trial’s end) we’ll have to tell the community that we can’t do it,” he said at the time.
The Weis said they were grateful for the community’s support so far.
They said Roni Bonacci and Suzette Kelly from Myrtleford Motor Doctor recently donated serviced the taxi as a donation.
Taxi bookings for the remainder of the trial can be made on 0427 553 330.