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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2147 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

I decided to conduct my own investigations into the claims. I have to say, Mr Speaker, that I honestly cannot believe how bad this situation is. It is a sad state of affairs, and it has been going on for so long that sections of the disabled community have given up on Canberra Cabs. Their complaints about unreasonable delays in getting cabs have fallen on deaf ears for so long that they have given up. They have been prepared to cop it on the chin and accept that they are not to have access to a fair and equitable service.

Not surprisingly, many of these people were absolutely riled by the dismissive attitude of Canberra Cabs' management, as shown on the news broadcast. They know that there are only six multicabs designed for wheelchair access operating in the ACT. They know how often they have been inconvenienced or left stranded because these six cabs simply cannot meet the demand, Mr Speaker. They know that they are being denied the basic right of having access to transport. But they have given up on the service, and to me that is an embarrassment. When Mrs Gordon's concerns were dismissed by Canberra Cabs' management, I was swamped with evidence of the real story.

So what exactly have wheelchair passengers been copping on the chin? My office has explored the situation and has come up with more than 30 cases in the first two weeks of this month where passengers have been inconvenienced by Canberra Cabs. Who knows how many other cases there are or how many people avoid the inconvenience because they just do not bother to call anymore? How long are these people waiting? Take 7 September, for example. I have information that a passenger wanted a cab to go from Bruce to Lyneham. How long would you expect to wait in a location like Bruce for such a short journey to Lyneham? Ten minutes perhaps; maybe 20 or 30 if it was really busy. How about 100 minutes, Mr Speaker? I am not mistaken. It was 100 minutes, to get from Bruce to Lyneham. Once again, it is an embarrassment. That passenger ordered the cab for 2.50 pm. The passenger was later informed that the car would not be available and it had to be rebooked for 4.30 pm. So, 100 minutes later, the client got the cab.

That is where the problem lies, Mr Speaker. Canberra Cabs is saying that the clients are being picked up within times specified under licence accreditations. I have knowledge that the figures supplied to Urban Services are not the complete story. It is my understanding, Mr Speaker, that the times logged and passed on to the Minister are the rebooked times. So, in the case I have just mentioned, although the original pick-up time was 2.50 pm, because Canberra Cabs cancelled this time and made a rebooking, the recorded time went down as 4.30 pm. So the 100 minutes' delay was swept under the carpet and, for reporting purposes, the cab was on time.

There have been other examples of extreme waiting times in the last few weeks. One was 85 minutes - almost an hour-and-a-half - on 1 September, to go from Garran to Aranda, which I understand was a hospital appointment. I have another 19 examples of cabs arriving more than 30 minutes after the requested time. The wheelchair passengers understand that the multicabs are not going to be quite as quick as standard cabs, but to be subjected to delays of upwards of an hour is not fair and should not be tolerated.

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