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Abu Dhabi taxi drivers cry foul over unlicensed cabs

ABU DHABI // Drivers of silver taxis are crying foul over what they call unfair competition from unlicensed cabs offering cheaper fares.

Taxi drivers are under immense pressure to meet their targets, often working 12 to 14 hours every day.

They say the increasing number of uninsured and unregulated cabs has made it harder for the city’s 10,000 drivers to find customers.

Owners of private vehicles are touting business off the street, taking work away from legitimate taxi services. Offenders can be fined between Dh5,000 and Dh10,000, 30 days in jail – or both.

“You can find them at the ICAD in Mussaffah, near the Lifeline Hospital on Electra Street and across the Al Wahda bus station on Muroor Street,” said Ferdinand Peralta, 31, a Tawasul taxi driver, who works 12 hours to meet his Dh500 daily target to earn about Dh4,000. “They simply pay the fine and continue to operate their illegal taxi business. Their private cars should be impounded.”

Aldrin Malicsi, 45, who also drives for Tawasul, agreed. “I don’t understand why they are being tolerated,” he said. “I think there should be stricter enforcement to keep them off the streets.”

On a recent morning, drivers of unlicensed taxis parked their cars behind Janata Bank, off Muroor Road, and were negotiating the fare with a customer.

A driver, who identified himself as Alaa, from Egypt, said a trip to Baniyas and Mussaffah costs Dh40 but passengers can split the fare for their trip. They pay Dh10 each for that trip, with four sharing.

Silver taxis charge Dh120 for a trip to Baniyas and up to Dh55 to Mussaffah. Alaa, who owns a Toyota Yaris, charges Dh350 for a return trip between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and Dh600 between Abu Dhabi and Fujairah or Ras Al Khaimah.

The metered fare in a silver taxi is about Dh250 for a one-way trip to Dubai, and about Dh400 to Fujairah.

A Pakistani driver of a Toyota Camry, who did not wish to be named, said he had paid Dh5,000 and Dh8,000 in fines.

A dozen private taxi drivers, mostly Pakistani men, were also seen approaching passers-by near the pedestrian bridge on Muroor Road across the Abu Dhabi main bus terminal.

“We are competing with these black market taxis, which is a big issue for us,” said Mohammed Al Qamzi, general manager of the Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars, or Transad.

There are more than 7,000 silver taxis in Abu Dhabi emirate, six special needs vans, 220 airport vans and 270 Mercedes Vito Compact vans.

“But everyone is aware that we are doing our best to eradicate the problem and reduce their number in cooperation with the police,” he said. “We caught a good number of them last year – about 4,000.”

Unlicensed cabs are not subject to the strict regulations that Abu Dhabi’s silver taxis must comply with, so they pose a dangerous risk to users, he said.

Transad has an automated fining system and speed limits are monitored through a tracking and dispatch centre.

It also introduced tougher rules for taxi drivers in March last year.

“More than anything, we are trying to educate people by warning them about the dangers of using these black market taxis,” Mr Al Qamzi.

“Who are these people? Nobody knows.”

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(via The National)