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Uber blocks passengers in Govt's "on-demand" bus trial areas

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Transport Minister Stephan Knoll says there is “absolutely no correlation” between the State Government’s Uber-style bus service trial and the closure of Uber services in Mount Barker and the Barossa Valley.

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Last week, the Government launched a mobile app-based to support ‘on-demand’ bus services to be trialled in the Mount Barker and Barossa regions starting early next year.

This morning, ridesharing service Uber was unavailable to passengers wanting to travel from Mount Barker and the Barossa Valley.

Knoll appeared on ABC Radio Adelaide this morning and answered questions from a caller who identified himself as an Uber driver, named Paul.

“I was just wondering why that is the case – it seems to be in line with this new app system that the government is trying to trial in the next six months,” said the caller, who described Mount Barker as a popular spot for Uber passengers.

The driver said Uber was no longer available in Mount Barker, the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley, but only the former two regions – which happen to be the sites of the government’s on-demand bus trial – were unavailable on the Uber app when InDaily tested it this morning.

In response, Knoll denied there was any relationship between the announcement of the bus service app and the closure of the Uber areas, saying: “There is absolutely no correlation between the two… the idea that these two things are in any way correlated is completely untrue.”

“The work that ride-share operators do is completely different from the work we expect this on-demand bus route to take up,” Knoll told the radio program.

That’s despite Knoll’s own description of the on-demand bus service at the time of its announcement last week: “This service will operate in a similar way to most ride-sharing apps than millions of people use right across the country.”

But this Minister did tell the radio program this morning that his department had been in contact with Uber about whether its boundaries complied with the law.

Knoll said Uber had been operating beyond boundaries imposed by the former Labor Government over some period – although he did not know how long the company had been in breach – and that his understanding was that the company had simply brought itself into line with the law by drawing back its operating area.

“There was a metropolitan map that was put in place under the former government that hasn’t changed,” said Knoll.

“What I think has changed is that Uber itself had opened up and relaxed their geofence, and that meant that there were areas outside of the regulated map that Uber could operate where they have been operating.

“There’ve been compliance matters going on between ride-share operators and the Department all the time.”

Knoll added that he actually wanted ride-sharing services to expand into new areas of regional South Australia, but refused to comment further when approached by InDaily today.

“I would like to see Uber open up, and other rideshare operators open up in regional South Australia,” he told the ABC.

“We have put to them a method that we can get this done, and I’m keen to get this done, but the ball’s a little bit in Uber’s court – the State Government is standing here ready and willing to open this up.

“We just need to set up a framework to allow that to happen.”

He added that the on-demand bus service would have the biggest impact on existing Adelaide Metro bus services rather than on Uber.

A spokesperson for Uber told InDaily this afternoon that the company was “committed to unlocking opportunities within regional communities”, with its most recent example being efforts in regional New South Wales.

“In South Australia, Uber currently only operates in Metropolitan Adelaide.”

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