Since January 1, Lithgow’s only wheelchair-accessible taxi has been taken off the road, with operators saying that a decrease in the number of people using the cab and high overheads made the taxi financially unviable.
“There has been a decline in users, only a handful of people are using that bus in a week,” Vicki Walsh, manager of Lithgow City Radio Cabs said.
“We are disappointed the bus isn’t out there, it’s just something we didn’t think would happen.”
An issue faced by the co-op is finding a driver for the bus.
It’s a form of transport like buses or anything else, it allows people to go where they want to when they want to.Jodie Stewart
“If there are only three jobs a day split between afternoon and morning, it makes it hard to find a driver for it,” she said.
“It’s got to be economically viable not only for the co-op but for someone to drive it and earn a proper wage. People aren’t going to do it for nothing.
“That’s why we are in the process of doing a restructure. In the next couple of weeks we will sit down and work out how to get the bus back on the road.”
Ms Walsh said all users of the cab were given three months notice of its cancellation.
Jodie Stewart, CEO of disability service UnitingCare Lithgow, said the lack of an accessible taxi service in Lithgow had “robbed” clients of their independence.
“We have a lot of clients that have been impacted,” she said.
“The importance of the taxi is the independence it gives people in wheelchairs to get out and about without relying on general organisations.
“It’s a form of transport like buses or anything else, it allows people to go where they want to when they want to.”
She said one of her clients now had to rely on his parents to get him around town.
“He has experienced a loss of independence,” she said.
Both Ms Stewart and Ms Walsh said the taxi service fulfilled a different need to government-funded community transport.
“The people who used our bus also used community transport - it’s a great initiative and we work with them but we can’t compete with free providers,” Ms Walsh said.
“Also clients can just ring us up, usually they are repeat customers, and we can respond quicker [than community transport].”
Ms Stewart said she empathised with the taxi co-op’s financial difficulties.
“I fully understand when it comes to companies struggling to make ends meet. Most organisations in the disability sector are facing that at the moment,” she said.
“Basically, we will contact whoever we can to try and advocate and get that taxi back on the road.”
Ms Walsh said Radio Cabs were discussing ways to fill out the wheelchair cab’s schedule with booked jobs so that a full-day of work could be offered to a taxi driver.
“That bus has cost a lot of money. We will try our up most to get the bus working again,” she said.