Taxi app makers to reward cabbies for picking up late-night fares

A fast-growing app that puts users directly in touch with taxi drivers will start offering Sydney drivers financial rewards to pick up passengers in the early morning.

The O'Farrell government's response to alcohol-fuelled violence in central Sydney and Kings Cross has been criticised for not doing enough to help people get home from nights out in the city.

And cab drivers have also warned the proposed 3am last drinks curfew on bars in inner Sydney will make it more difficult to find a taxi at a time most drivers are changing shifts.

GoCatch is an app that allows users to book a cab directly with a driver and to see the location of taxis on the screens of their phones. Its developers say they will start offering drivers incentives of up to $20 a trip to pick up passengers between 1am and 4am.

"Our data indicates it is very difficult to get a taxi at that time of the morning," said Andrew Campbell, a co-founder of the app, which, he says, has now signed up about a quarter of the taxi drivers in Sydney.

"Both anecdotally and from the data, drivers are reluctant to pick passengers up at that time, because of the risk to their safety and also the worry of having to clean up a cab," he said.

"When it gets to one in the morning and you've been working for 12 hours, do you really want to face the prospect of getting assaulted or cleaning up vomit?"

The only transport initiative unveiled in Tuesday's package of measures to crack down on late-night violence was to cut the price of late-night buses from Kings Cross to Town Hall and Central. These buses had been running since last month, but at a cost of $2 a trip. They will now be free.

But the Labor opposition and Greens have called for the resumption of all-night train travel in Sydney.

Sydney's trains used to run all night until 1989, when they were replaced with NightRide buses under the Greiner Coalition government. At the time, the government said NightRide buses would be safer than trains.

To deal with the lack of taxis in the city late on Friday and Saturday nights, Transport for NSW has released taxi licences that are capable of being used only between midday and 5am.

It has also increased the flag-fall for getting in a cab to $6 late on a weekend. But surveys conducted for the independent pricing regulator show Fridays and Saturdays remain the most difficult times to find a cab.

Mr Campbell could not say how the exact amount of the reward to each driver picking someone would be determined.

He said it would be worked out by an algorithm, adding that he expected to scheme to cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The app makers will charge a fee of 7.5 per cent of the fare in NSW when a passenger pays by card. Cabcharge levies a 10 per cent charge.

The GoCatch trial will start on Friday and last a month, and the company says it will share its results with the NSW government.

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