Rush to get cars on the roads raises problem of new drivers with little knowledge of the city and poor language skills.
A thousand more silver taxis on streets of the capital
ABU DHABI // Hailing a cab has become much easier after more than 1,000 additional silver taxis were put into service over the past two months, but some passengers say the new drivers are having trouble communicating and finding their way around.
The total number of silver taxis in Abu Dhabi surged from 4,200 in early November to 5,400 at the end of the year as the seven franchisees rushed to meet the fleet strength specified in their contracts with TransAD, the emirate's taxi regulator. Only three of the companies - Arabia Taxi, Al Ghazal Transport and Tawasul - have met their target of putting 1,021 cars on the road by the end of 2009, while the others - National Taxi, Cars Taxi, Emirates Taxi and Q-Link Transportation - have been given three more months to do so.
TransAD has decided to suspend the stipulated fine of Dh1,000 (US$270) a month for each taxi a company fails to deploy, "to encourage the franchisee to complete their fleet", said Huda al Kaabi, a senior communications officer for TransAD. However, if a company fails to meet its quota by March 31, the fines will be levied retroactively from January 1. TransAD is simultaneously phasing out the older gold-and-white taxis in the emirate, and has already taken more than 4,000 off the road. The remaining 4,500 will be phased out by 2012.
Abu Dhabi residents said yesterday that they found it easier to hail a cab on the street, though some were concerned that the new drivers were unfamiliar with locations around the capital. Shirley Roeloffze, 62, a South African consultant who has been in the capital for about two and a half years, said the drivers of the gold-and-white cabs were much better at taking her to her destination. "These new drivers are indeed very polite and professional, but they often have no idea of where to go," she said.
Ms Roeloffze said the language barrier was also a concern. "Thirty per cent of the time, I get into a taxi and the driver cannot speak English, does not know the directions to the place, and cannot understand when I explain the directions to him," she said. However, Alice Jarvis, a 25-year-old homemaker from the UK who moved to Abu Dhabi a year and a half ago, said she was happy with the new taxis.
"The old cabs seemed dodgy to me and I wasn't comfortable using them. But the newer drivers are courteous and I have no problems with them at all," she said. Mir Mazhar Ahmed, the Abu Dhabi manager for Arabia Taxi, who said the company had put about 400 new drivers on the road in the past two months, admitted that their knowledge of locations might be shaky at first. However, he said, he expected they would learn on the job.