Bendigo’s transport landscape will be revolutionised tomorrow when ridesharing service Uber makes its long-awaited arrival in the central Victorian city.
The mobile phone app, which connects passengers with drivers, will begin with 50 cars in Bendigo and is expected to add dozens more before the end of 2017.
The American-based company’s Victorian manager, Lucas Groeneveld, said the launch was timed to coincide with the warmer months and spring racing season, during which time locals are more likely to visit pubs and bars.
“Our launch will give locals more transport options, particularly on the weekends when it’s historically been hardest to get a safe, reliable ride home after a few drinks,” Mr Groeneveld said.
Read more: Uber hunts for drivers in Bendigo
It is believed a ride from Bendigo railway station to the racecourse will cost between $17 and 18, while an Uber between Kangaroo Flat and the Metropolitan Hotel would set passengers back $14 to $15.
The cost of an Uber changes according to the number of drivers available and demand for their services.
But the technological advancement has not come without complications, with a Bendigo resident this week reporting his credit card was used fraudulently to pay for Uber fares.
David Lonsdale was in Castlemaine on the weekend when two Uber rides totalling more than $100 were charged to his Bendigo Bank credit card.
“I don't have an Uber account, so straight away I thought, ‘that's not right’,” Mr Lonsdale said.
He only noticed the mistake when checking his bank statement on Monday and immediately followed his institution’s advice to cancel the card.
An Uber spokesman said the company could block card number once a customer or bank raised the alarm, as well as banning the account on which the car was used.
"We treat reports of credit card fraud seriously, and will act quickly to refund fraudulent charges,” the spokesman said.
"We will also work with police and assist with investigations into allegations of fraud."
Mr Lonsdale said the cashless, sharing economy meant consumers were more exposed to financial fraud than ever before and encouraged credit card owners to regularly check their transactions.
The online marketplace also made it more difficult to contact a company and raise a concern, he said.
It is the second disruption to the city’s cab industry in the last fortnight, with the arrival of 13 CABS also offering competition to longstanding provider Bendigo Taxis.
That company’s manager, Colin Wells, last week anticipated long-term customers would stand by the original service.
“We've been here for 50 plus years, we want to be here for another 50 plus years,” Mr Wells said.
Mr Lonsdale believed ageing passengers were among those most likely to continue using taxis as they sought to avoid dealing with technological hiccups.
But there appears to be considerable hunger for Uber locally; 18,000 people – from 58 different countries –in Bendigo have reportedly opened the app this year in search of a ride, only to be told the service was not yet available.
Uber began searching for drivers in Bendigo as early as last July. The app launched in Ballarat on Wednesday.
It is almost fives years since Uber was first made available in Melbourne. The app was legalised last August when the Victorian government announced its first round of taxi reforms.