x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Taxi drivers rue the opening of 10 new Metro stations

Struggling drivers say their earnings have taken a drop despite working twice as hard as more commuters choose the rail over tedious bus journeys.

Taxi drivers, from left, Sham K, Noor Khan, Salim Khan and Naziz Khan wait for passengers near Ibn Battuta Metro Station.
Taxi drivers, from left, Sham K, Noor Khan, Salim Khan and Naziz Khan wait for passengers near Ibn Battuta Metro Station.

DUBAI // Taxi drivers say their earnings have taken a drop despite working twice as hard as more commuters choose the Metro for long journeys after the opening of 10 new stations. Some drivers said reduced earnings have forced them to look for other jobs, saying they are no longer able to support their families. "Every day is tense for me," said Ali Ahmed, a Pakistani driver who has worked in Dubai for the past 10 years. "I worry, 'Will I get business or not?' Now, even to make Dh200 [per day] is difficult because people no longer want to travel to Deira by taxi. They want me to take them to a Metro station instead."

Mr Ahmed said he earned an average of Dh350 per day last year, before the Metro opened and sent a large chunk of that amount home to help educate his three children and care for his parents. "I can send very little home now and I must earn enough money for my family," he said. "I am looking for work as a private driver. At least that will be a steady income. Some of my friends are doing the same."

Officials at the Roads and Transport Authority, which regulates taxi services in Dubai, did not respond to requests for comment. The expansion of the Metro has been cited by several long-term taxi users as making it easier and cheaper to get around, reducing their need for using the roads. Oxana Rudiva, a 27-year-old marketing co-ordinator from Russia, said she was saving a significant amount of money because her daily long-distance taxi journeys have been drastically reduced.

"In my country we use the Metro to go everywhere so I was very, very happy when I could travel by Metro here in Dubai," she said. Before Metro services expanded, she spent Dh120 every day travelling by taxi from her home in the Dubai Marina to her job at the Dubai Airport Free Zone. That is not good news for Latif Ahmed, a taxi driver from Kerala who has experienced a rise in the number of passengers asking him to be dropped at Metro stations.

"It is my daily concern," he said. "My business has fallen. I have to work harder now. I put in more hours but I still earn less." A taxi driver in Dubai for seven years, Mr Ahmed said he now starts work at 1.30am for what is usually a 3am shift and still makes only about Dh270 a day, down from Dh400. However, drivers at Dubai airport said their earnings have been largely unaffected. Hamid Ismail, a taxi driver for two decades, said he was easily able to reach his Dh500 daily target by driving passengers from the airport. "Tourists and people who live here prefer taking a taxi rather than dragging their luggage [on the Metro]," he said. "They go by Metro if they have small bags." @Email:rtalwar@thenational.ae