x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Emirate's sick and elderly get a ticket to ride - in taxi cabs

Starting next Thursday, Emiratis who are older than 60, are disabled or have a chronic illness will be eligible for 50 per cent off of their taxi fares.

ABU DHABI // Starting next Thursday, Emiratis who are older than 60, are disabled or have a chronic illness will be eligible for 50 per cent off of their taxi fares. Other Emiratis receiving social benefits, such as widows and divorced women, can receive a discount of 25 per cent. TransAD, the taxi regulator for Abu Dhabi emirate, and the Ministry of Social Affairs have been planning the programme since last year. Yesterday they signed a formal agreement, and the ministry said it was ready to start distributing the discount cards, which passengers can present for on-the-spot discounts.

"The names are ready, the cards are ready," said Hussein al Sheikh, the chief executive of the ministry's social welfare sector. "Once the centre tells us that our systems are activated, we will distribute the cards." There are 10,000 people registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs who are eligible for the discounts, Mr al Sheikh said. Of those, 1,250 have a disability; 3,110 are elderly; and 5,640 qualify for some sort of social assistance.

There are 16 social benefit categories. They also include orphans and relatives of prisoners. The cards can be swiped through the meters of any of the emirate's 6,400 cabs. The 50-per-cent discount cards are blue and the 25-per-cent ones are silver. "Only the person holding the card can use it. He cannot give it to someone else to use it," said Saeed al Romaithi, TransAD's director of corporate services. "The driver has the right to check if this is the exact person."

Drivers will not lose out. For each of these special passengers they carry, they will receive 25 per cent above the non-discounted fare for the journey. Taxi companies will also have the difference in the fares refunded by the Government. The two agencies added that they were conducting a study into the feasibility of providing customized taxis for passengers in wheelchairs or who need help walking.

Mr al Romaithi said he expected the discount cards to lead to increased ridership among Emiratis. mchung@thenational.ae