Suncoast Cabs director Clark Chappel. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Suncoast Cabs director Clark Chappel. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

Cash to give cabbies ‘breathing space’ until pubs reopen

TAXI owners and operators across the region buffeted by the effects of the pandemic have welcomed a $23 million support package for the industry, which will buy them some time.

Suncoast Cabs director Clark Chappel said the State Government funding announcement would give the company "some breathing space" as it worked to recover.

Mr Chappel said the company had minimised many of its operational costs during the past few months, and the stimulus package announced would buy them more time while they waited for pubs and clubs to reopen and flights to start up again.

Mr Chappel said each taxi licence owner in the region was a shareholder of the company who paid a levee for the company to run services like bookings, mechanical support and accounting.

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The State Government announced it would provide one-off payments of $3500 a vehicle to taxi and limousine operators, one-off payments of $1000 a licence to taxi and limousine holders, one-off payments of $1500 to booking entities and incentive payments of $1000 per vehicle for wheelchair accessible taxi operators.

Mr Chappel estimated the payments would provide about $160,000 to Suncoast Cabs, while they waited for licensed venues to reopen.

"That's where the bulk of our industry is (pubs and clubs and airports)," he said.

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He said by the third week of April the company was down 80.5 per cent on income per vehicle based on the corresponding week the previous year.

But that had improved to 59 per cent down by the second week of June.

"It's a long way back (to business as usual)," Mr Chappel said.

Suncoast Cabs director Clark Chappel and driver Barry Stumbles. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Suncoast Cabs director Clark Chappel and driver Barry Stumbles. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

He said the company was putting two more cabs back on the road now, having taken six off during the peak of the pandemic.

"The drivers left in hordes," Mr Chappel said, adding many had opted to rely solely on the government benefits for income.

"They're slowly drifting back."

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the package was designed to assist booking entities as well as drivers.

"This package is especially important for Queenslanders in our community who have a disability, with the package to include an additional payment for operators whose taxis are wheelchair accessible," he said.

Mr Chappel said this week's announcement that Alliance Airlines would begin three return flights a week from the Sunshine Coast to Cairns from July 17 was a "fantastic" boost for the business.

"Suncoast Cabs is absolutely delighted to see planes flying again and in particular a northern service," he said.

"We always thought it was a lay down misere."

He said they'd been "knocked around significantly" over the last 3-4 years, and the loss of pubs and clubs as well as flights, and a large downturn in elderly customers meant it would be a gradual return.

"I think people want to move, they want to do something and want to get out," Mr Chappel said.



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