x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Taxi drivers protest over rental charges

Taxi regulator promises to scrap an increase in vehicle rental charges that caused dozens of drivers to protest.

Taxi drivers from Tawasul talk with each other during a strike near the Trans AD building.
Taxi drivers from Tawasul talk with each other during a strike near the Trans AD building.

ABU DHABI // The taxi regulator has promised to scrap an increase in vehicle rental charges that caused dozens of drivers to protest yesterday. Commuters reported problems hailing taxis as disgruntled drivers converged on the offices of TransAD to complain about increased charges imposed by Tawasul, one of seven franchisees that operates the capital's silver taxis. TransAD said it would make Tawasul shelve the increase in costs that followed a rise in fares.

Drivers say the increased charges mean they are seeing no benefit from this week's fare increase. On Sunday, the daytime starting fare rose to Dh3 (US$0.82) from Dh2.60, while the per-kilometre rate increased to Dh1 from 65 fils. The same day, Tawasul informed drivers it was increasing the 24-hour rental charge for a vehicle to Dh300 from Dh225. The cost of a 12-hour rental, drivers said, had risen to Dh220 from Dh155.

One driver, an Egyptian who asked not to be named, said that each day petrol cost about Dh75 and food around Dh25, meaning his total daily costs were now Dh400. It was difficult, he said, to make any money when costs were as high as this. "We are working 15 hours a day for nothing," he said, adding he would go back to Egypt if the charge increase remained. Drivers working on a commission basis, who earn a basic monthly salary of Dh1,000, must now generate at least Dh7,999 in revenue before they earn any commission payments.

Another driver, a Sri Lankan, said: "They have increased the meter fare but all the benefits are going to the company." While dozens of drivers from countries such as Egypt, the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka visited TransAD's offices to voice their concerns, passengers had difficulty finding taxis. Jay Arcenal, a 38-year-old civil engineer from Arabtech, was waiting for a taxi for 30 minutes at the main taxi stand in the capital.

"Everyone is scrambling for a taxi here," he said. "About 10 people have been waiting here for 45 minutes but there were no taxis available. Other taxis refuse to take passengers." There are more than 3,000 silver taxis, which will eventually replace the cheaper white and gold vehicles. Abdulla al Hameli, TransAD's compliance and quality control manager, said he was surprised the drivers were protesting at the company's offices.

"They're supposed to solve the problem with the management of Tawasul but since the management did not listen to the drivers, they came to TransAD," he said. Huda al Kaabi, a senior communication officer at TransAD, said Tawasul was wrong to have increased the charges to drivers when fares went up. "Because we changed the tariff, they should not change the daily rental," she said. Mr al Hameli said it was against TransAD's rules for a franchisee to increase rental charges or commission rates without consulting with the regulator.

"They have to refer to TransAD before they change anything," he said. Mr al Hameli said as far as he knew, Tawasul was the only one of the seven franchisees to increase the charges to drivers. TransAD was arranging a meeting with the franchisees, he said, and expected a resolution by the end of the week. "The main concern for TransAD is to make sure everything is in order for the drivers and the public because happy drivers make the public happy."

No one at Tawasul was available for comment yesterday. dbardsley@thenational.ae rruiz@thenational.ae