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Readers' taxi questions answered

The National speaks with people about Abu Dhabi's taxi shortage and takes their concerns to the city's hire-car authority.

ABU DHABI // A queueing system is under consideration to ease the growing problem of hailing taxis on the streets. Khalid Saleh al Rashedi, the general manager of the Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (TransAD), said the idea had been proposed as part of a plan to improve the emirate's infrastructure. Taxi fares would remain the same until at least November, he added. Mr Rashedi was responding to a series of questions put to him by The National on behalf of the capital's residents.

Philip Bowler, 60, said rival passengers often pushed in front of him at taxi stands. "Can they do something to organise the queues better?" asked the teacher from England. Mr Rashedi said TransAD had proposed the idea of a queue system to the Department of Transport (DoT). TransAD and the taxi franchises were hiring more inspectors to work around the emirate, he said. One of their duties would be to help to organise the queues.

Low- and middle-income residents depended on taxis because of the lack of public transport options, said Mr Rashedi. "Once the supposed low income residents shift to mass transit, it should be reasonable to increase prices, but we also need to introduce a new service." The DoT, which oversees TransAD, is expected to introduce 287 buses by the end of this year for routes inside and outside the city.

Mr Rashedi said TransAD would wait to see what impact those buses had on the taxi service before considering changes to regulations. Last November, taxi fares were increased for the first time in more than 20 years, when the first batch of silver taxis began operating. While the price for the older gold and white taxis stayed the same, at Dh2 plus 50 fils per kilometre, the newer fares start at Dh3 or Dh3.60 and rise by either 75 or 90 fils per kilometre, depending on the class of car.

The behaviour of drivers was the most important issue for Abigail Kerr, 23. She said drivers often insisted that she get out of the cab across the road from Abu Dhabi Mall, where she works at the Canadian Embassy. "Why do the gold and white taxis complain about dropping us off where we want to be dropped?" she asked. "We are paying them, after all." Mr Rashedi said customers should write down the driver's identification number and call 600 53 53 53 to complain. The drivers would be fined Dh500 (US$136) for the first complaint and Dh1,000 for the second, Mr Rashedi said. A third complaint would lead to a suspension.

"The public needs to appreciate the situation," he added. "We have drivers [of the older gold and white cabs] that act like a union. "If passengers and the regulator do not collaborate to sort this out, it is going to be very challenging." mchung@thenational.ae

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