Abu Dhabi sharing scheme could drive illegal taxis off roads

ABU DHABI // A taxi-sharing scheme in the capital to serve workers on low incomes is a better and safer option than illegal taxis, residents say. Drivers of illegal cabs could face fines of Dh30,000 and deportation when an amendment to the law takes effect, Abu Dhabi taxi regulator TransAD said in May. Currently, the […]

ABU DHABI // A taxi-sharing scheme in the capital to serve workers on low incomes is a better and safer option than illegal taxis, residents say.

Drivers of illegal cabs could face fines of Dh30,000 and deportation when an amendment to the law takes effect, Abu Dhabi taxi regulator TransAD said in May. Currently, the law imposes fines between Dh5,000 and Dh10,000 or a 30-day jail term, or both.

An illegal taxi charges as little as Dh10, compared with at least Dh60 to Mussaffah and Dh120 to Baniyas in a registered silver taxi.

“The people operating these illegal taxis are filling a void,” said a 30-year-old American teacher in Al Ain.

“I do not take the bus, but from my observations and from having spoken to low-income workers, buses take too long to get from point A to point B, and do not come frequently enough.”

Transport authorities could introduce a taxi-sharing scheme that offers cheaper cab fares, is convenient and efficient, she said. For instance, the “louage” (rental in French) seats between four to eight passengers and makes the farthest corners of Tunisia accessible.

Morocco has the “grand taxi” that takes up six passengers in old Mercedes sedans, while Lebanon has its “service” taxis with red licence plates and will pull over to passengers who are looking for a ride.

“I understand that standards for drivers and vehicles need to be met to transport people,” said the resident. “What about creating a new division that deals with this kind of transportation?”

In 2008, Ajman launched a taxi-sharing scheme offering cheaper fares within the emirate and to Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah to help low-income earners. Many had to walk long distances because they could not afford the metered fares.

Abdul Ghaffor, 26, a Pakistani crane operator, said that many residents, especially low-income workers, will greatly benefit from a shared taxi service if there are moves to make it legal.

“We have company transport but sometimes I take a shared taxi to Mussaffah, which only costs Dh10,” he said.

Ruby Rambano, 33, a cinema supervisor who has lived in Abu Dhabi for eight years, said she was aware of the dangers of travelling on illegally-operated taxis.

TransAD has warned the public not to use the unlicensed cabs because the vehicles are not properly equipped for the safety of passengers and may not be insured.

“I don’t have a choice,” said Ms Rambano, who attends theory classes at Emirates Driving Company in Mussaffah. “But if they introduce shared taxis, I’d feel safer.”

But not everyone welcomed the news. Hamidur Rahim, 42, a Bangladeshi who drives for Emirates Taxi, said that if a shared cab system was launched it would be tough for him to find customers. “There are too many taxis on the road,” he said. “I need to work 14 to 16 hours a day to meet my daily target.”

There are 7,645 silver taxis in Abu Dhabi, six special-needs vans, 220 airport vans and 270 Mercedes Vito Compact vans.

Taxi drivers are under immense pressure to meet their targets, often working 12 to 14 hours every day.

A National Taxi driver, who did not wish to be named, said that he only got Dh60 in fares after driving around the city for five hours. “Now if they allow sharing taxis here, how can I reach my target?” he said.

TransAD officials were not available for comment.

rruiz@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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