x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Some silver taxis still overcharge

Some drivers of silver taxis are still trying to negotiate a higher fare with passengers, despite technology in the cabs meant to stop the practice.

ABU DHABI // Some drivers of silver taxis are still trying to negotiate a higher fare with passengers, despite technology in the cabs meant to stop the practice. TransAD, the agency that regulates taxis in the emirate, said that as of last month infrared and seat sensors that start meters automatically were installed in all the silver taxis.

But some drivers were still trying to charge higher fares. "This is not permitted," said Sultan al Shamisi, the director of TransAD's customer service and compliance division. A reporter for The National who hailed a cab at about 5pm outside the Adnoc building at the corner of Meena and Salam Road was quoted a fare of Dh15, double the price for a trip on the meter, to go to the Abu Dhabi Media Company building near the intersection of Fourth Road and 15th Street.

Fekry Amr, 17, said drivers of silver cabs have charged him almost Dh10 more than the price on the meter for a trip to his home in Musaffah. "I tell him the meter is Dh26.50, he tells me no," Mr Amr, an Egyptian student at Al Nahda National Schools, said of one driver. Mr Shamisi urged passengers to get the identification number of any driver who tries to overcharge and call TransAD at 600 53 53 53.

A call to TransAD could sort out disputes while a passenger was still in the taxi, as the customer service representative can speak directly to the driver. TransAD's penalty for a driver who demands a fare higher than that on the meter is a fine of Dh500 and two demerit points. A repeat offence costs the driver Dh1,000. Fady Dawoud, 17, said he sometimes waited more than an hour for a cab after class and felt forced to agree to a higher fare when a cab stopped for him.

"Basically, the shortage of cabs is why we pay more," said Mr Dawoud, also an Egyptian student at Al Nahda National Schools. Yousuf Hussain from franchisee Cars taxis said since installing the sensors in his company's cars, drivers could no longer carry passengers without running the meter, as some had been doing. The less expensive gold and white cabs, which are being phased out as more silver taxis are introduced, will not be fitted with the devices.

If passengers complain about a driver overcharging and the driver is found to have broken the rules, Cars suspends them for 10 days and sends them for retraining, Mr Hussain said. He said drivers who get caught realise quickly that it is not worth losing Dh1,000 "just for the sake of an extra five dirhams". Cars has a taxi inspector on the road 24 hours a day, he said. Some silver taxis are also operating shared taxis, picking up and dropping off multiple passengers and charging each a fixed rate. Under TransAD's rules, drivers are permitted to allow another passenger to enter the cab with permission from the first passenger.

TransAD said it has started drafting legislation to regulate shared taxis. Gold and white cabs have long operated shared cabs, filling the void left by an inadequate long- distance bus service by ferrying passengers to and from suburbs such as Mussafah and Baniyas. "Taxis should actually car pool in this country," Mr Dawoud said. "It would save a lot of traffic here." TransAD also recently introduced a taxi call centre linked to 1,300 silver taxis. It has also installed speed governors that hold a taxi to 120kph.

@Email:mchung@thenational.ae