The Press

Taxi fares high but drivers struggle

- MADISON REIDY

You can expect to pay top dollar for a taxi ride, but some drivers are working more than the legal limit of 70 hours a week to make ends meet.

Taxi driver Manjit Singh said he often worked 12 hours a day but only drives for two.

He said he could spend up to three hours waiting at Auckland Airport for a ride.

Legally he is not allowed to work more than 13 hours a day and must rest for at least 10 hours between shifts.

In his 17 years as a taxi driver, Singh said fares had risen, but he still had to work long hours to earn enough so he and his family could survive.

Another driver, Sanjeev Kandikatla said he waited at the airport taxi rank for hours, hoping to service at least four rides a day to make the minimum wage. Six rides made for a good day.

A recent survey placed Auckland’s taxi fares as the 27th highest out of 80 of the world’s most visited cities.

The Taxi Price Index by British online car dealership Carspring found Auckland’s average taxi ride cost $2.90 a kilometre, more than twice the price suggested for Sydney, Australia.

Blue Bubble Alliance, New Zealand’s largest taxi co-operative, with 2000 cabs, charges $2.95 a kilometre for its Wellington Combined Taxis and $3.20/km for its Blue Star Taxis in Christchur­ch.

Blue Bubble boss Bob Wilkinson said taxi driving in New Zealand had always required working the maximum 13-hour shifts. It was up to taxi companies to ensure drivers did not work more than the legal number of hours., he said.

Wilkinson said it was not surprising Auckland’s taxi prices were expensive compared to overeas cities.

However, New Zealand Taxi Federation executive director John Hart said Carspring’s data was ‘‘shallow’’ because it did not factor in New Zealand’s expensive petrol and vehicle licensing costs.

Hart said drivers only made a living off the high prices if they worked long hours due to an oversupply of taxis.

Deregulati­on of the taxi industry in 1989 allowed anyone with a licence to enter the market, resulting in too many taxis for a small population, he said.

Uber’s arrival had increased competitio­n.

An Uber ride in Auckland costs $1.35/km, or 30 cents a minute. Catching an Uber costs $1.45/km in Wellington and Christchur­ch.

Uber’s prices are subject to surge pricing and cancellati­on fees, the company also recently introduced waiting fees.

Kandikatla said he had tried driving for Uber but he made more money from the occasional customer leaving the airport. also

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