Coronavirus: Cairns Taxis assures it will not be shutting down, despite industry ‘on brink of collapse’


Nearly 40 per cent of its fleet has been taken off the road, but Cairns Taxis assures it will survive the COVID-19 pandemic despite reports the taxi industry has nosedived in regional Australia.

It was reported on the weekend that regional Australia’s taxi industry was “on the brink of collapse”, with coronavirus restrictions leading to a dramatic drop in taxi customers.

Townsville reportedly has fewer than 50 taxis serving the city’s population of 180,000 people, with a Townsville Taxis fuel station recently closing due to the pandemic.

Cairns Taxis chairman Layne Gardiner said the company was not immune to the economic impact of the virus, but was not as hard hit as other regional areas, despite the loss of passengers from Cairns Airport.

He said about 65 per cent of the local fleet of nearly 140 government-licensed taxis was still operational, with many taxis still in use between the city’s major shopping centres.

“It’s definitely challenging without a lot of the pubs and hotels being open,” he said.

“We haven’t got a full fleet on the road at the moment, because people are staying home and are frightened of taking COVID-19 back into their home, because of the proximity of the taxi drivers to them.

“But none of our drivers have tested positive to (the virus) and we have asked them to take all precautions to ensure they’re as safe as they can be, including asking passengers to ride in the back, so they’re not close to the driver.”

Mr Gardiner said the company had also implemented other changes, such as social-distancing measures at the Comport St depot, and expanding the service to accommodate the delivery of parcels, groceries and medicines.

He said the big problem in Cairns was providing transport for disabled and elderly passengers, who relied upon maxi taxis.

“These people will be unable to go anywhere, and they will lose a lot of their mobility,” he said. “I don’t know what the government will do to help these people.

“It’s a major issue, because as far as I know, ride-sharing companies are under no obligation to provide disability transport.”

According to the Taxi Council of Queensland, taxi operators and ride-sharing firms led by Uber have had demand plunge by as much as 70 per cent since the pandemic was declared.

Mr Gardiner said Cairns Taxis, which had been servicing the community since 1966, would not be shutting down.

“There’s no question about whether we will survive this or not, we’ll easily come out the other end just as strong as we were before,” he said.