x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Tripling of Al Ain's taxi fleet stalls

An official order to the city's seven silver taxi firms to triple their fleets by the end of the year appears to be stuck in the slow lane.

AL AIN // An official order to the city's seven silver taxi firms to triple their fleets by the end of the year appears to be stuck in the slow lane. Despite a requirement by TransAD, the taxi regulator, that the companies increase the number of cabs from 724 to 2,072, only 300 have been added since the order was issued in July. The companies have told TransAD there is a shortage of qualified drivers.

TransAD said yesterday that there were now 1,000 taxis in Al Ain, almost 50 per cent more than at the start of the summer. Both drivers and passengers have noticed the increase, but while passengers want even more cabs on the streets, the drivers say there are already enough. Rosemarie Cabahug, a 40-year-old Filipina beauty consultant, takes a taxi to work every morning. She said her waiting time had decreased dramatically.

"I'm very happy now," Mrs Cabahug said. "Before, there were not enough taxis. I usually had to wait 10 to 15 minutes for a taxi to take me to work, but now I find one in five minutes. I am pleased, but more taxis would be better." But for Uddab Nepali, 36, a Nepalese taxi driver, it has been much harder to find a fare recently. "There are already too many taxis in Al Ain," he said. "Doubling the number of taxis will mean I will have to work twice as hard and twice as long to meet my target.

"I drive 17 or 18 hours a day and still cannot meet my target. This is affecting my health and salary." Mr Nepali works for Abu Dhabi-based Tawasul, which sets its drivers a monthly target of Dh8,500 (US$2,300); those who meet the figure receive 20 per cent commission, but if they make less, they are paid a salary of only Dh1,000. "I have not been able to meet the target in the last two months and have been only getting paid Dh1,000 per month," Mr Nepali said. "I drove a taxi in Nepal for 20 years. I was making more money driving in Nepal than here. I wish I never came."

Mr Nepali wants to be transferred to Abu Dhabi, where, he says, there is a taxi shortage and more fares. But with TransAD pressing companies to triple their fleet in Al Ain, that is unlikely to happen. In July, Tawasul had 65 taxis operating in Al Ain, but has increased its fleet to 195. "We have surpassed what TransAD has required," said Zein el Abdein Farag, Tawasul's duty operations manager in Al Ain.

"Tawasul has tripled its Al Ain fleet and will be adding another 20 taxis each month until we reach 296 taxis by the end of the summer next year. "The cars are all ready, We just need to bring in more drivers from abroad." Cars Taxi was operating 60 vehicles in Al Ain before the summer but now has 83. A company spokesman said it would roll out at least another 117 over the next two months. Arabia Taxi has increased its fleet by 50 taxis since the summer from 150 to 200. A spokesman could not say how many more it would add over the next few months, but promised a marked increase.

Other companies, including Ghazal Transport and National Taxi, were unavailable for comment. ealghalib@thenational.ae