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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

'Lavender' taxi service for women to start in Abu Dhabi

A fleet of 70 pink-and-lavender taxis exclusively for women and children will be on the streets by the end of March.

ABU DHABI // A fleet of 70 pink-and-lavender taxis exclusively for women and children will be on the streets by the end of March. The taxis will be driven by women and feature pink roof lights and purple-shaded logos, TransAD, the emirate's taxi regulator, announced yesterday. The regulator also said it would introduce new meter technology that automatically fines drivers who speed or ignore pick-up requests sent out by its call centre.

TransAD's seven franchisees will each have to provide 10 of the pink-and-lavender taxis, which women will be able to book for themselves and children younger than 10 through TransAD's call centre at 600-535353. The charges will be the same as for the regular silver cabs. TransAD said the women's taxis would also have a "special" shape, although they declined to provide details. The vehicles are to be unveiled before the service is launched.

The new taxis are welcome news for women such as Imelda Donan, 53, from the Philippines, who said she had had bad experiences in the older gold-and-white taxis. "Women won't have to worry about being alone in the taxi," she said. Ms Donan said some taxi drivers did not maintain good hygiene and there were still some "who are not very polite and will verbally abuse you because you are a Filipina". Women-only taxi services already operate in Dubai, Beirut, Tehran, Damascus and Kuwait. The one in Kuwait, Hawaa Taxis, says it receives about 20 calls a day.

Meanwhile, passengers used to gripping their seats in terror as their taxi hurtles along the road well above the speed limit will be able to relax with the introduction of a system for monitoring speed. The system, which is being tested in 10 taxis, will be introduced "soon", according to TransAD. The electronic regulator sends a voice message through the cab's on-board data terminal, warning drivers when they exceed the speed limit.

Drivers will receive two warnings and if they fail to slow down, will be informed they have been fined. Fines can range from Dh100 (US$27) to Dh1,000, depending on the offence. TransAD has set the speed limits for taxis at 70kph on city roads, 60kph near the airport and 120kph on external highways. "The speed [limit] is 160kph on the highways, but this is the maximum," Abdulla al Sabbagh, the TransAD general manager, said. "For safety reasons we decided to make it 120kph. Private cars do not travel 300 kilometres each day as taxis do."

Though some passengers said they would be willing to trade a little recklessness for a shorter journey, Silvija Cesavec, 31, from Croatia, is not one of them. Some drivers "are driving crazy. Sometimes, I get scared. [Speed regulation] is a good idea", Ms Cesavec said. Mr al Sabbagh added that TransAD could contact a speeding driver through the call centre to find out whether there was an emergency.

The on-board terminals will also allow TransAD to fine drivers Dh100 if they refuse job requests, and to freeze the meter of a taxi from Abu Dhabi operating in Al Ain and vice versa, or that of a driver who has had a complaint filed against him. TransAD also announced that all 7,147 taxis would operate round the clock come March, when 12-hour driver shifts are introduced. Three companies - Arabia Taxi, Al Ghazal Transport and Tawasul - were recognised by TransAD yesterday for completing their fleet of 1,021 new vehicles. National Taxi is expected to have its full fleet on the road in a matter of days.

The remaining companies have until the end of March to reach their quota or pay a fine of Dh1,000 a month, retroactive to January, for each taxi a company fails to deploy. Two new franchises are to be awarded in the next few months, which will add another 2,042 taxis over an 18-month period, taking the total number of cabs to 9,189. Separate companies will be franchised to run an airport service and a limousine service. Special cabs for the disabled will be introduced as well.

TransAD intends to introduce a uniform contract for all its franchisees but has made little headway since the spring, when the companies agreed to the scheme in principle. Disparities in salary and commissions among companies have led to unrest among drivers. Mr al Sabbagh said the franchisees needed to agree on the contract, for which TransAD would then seek Ministry of Labour approval. mchung@thenational.ae