Muscat: Taxi drivers operating in Oman have expressed concern over the new meter system coming into effect from next year, which could cost them customers.
Speaking to Times of Oman, an official from the Ministry of Transport and Communications said: “The electronic meter system will be implemented in all orange and white taxis from June 2019 onwards.”
With this new ministerial decision for all orange and white taxis, a taxi owner said, “I believe that although we will make more money per trip, people will not be willing to pay 130 baisas per kilometre, which means fewer customers. So, we will lose customers in the long run.”
Customers will be charged 130 baisas per kilometre travelled, in addition to 300 baisas service charge, which will be activated when customers sit in the taxi. However, if the fares are less than OMR1, then a flat fare of OMR1 is applicable. Marhoon Mohammed Al Wahaibi, who has been driving a taxi for more than 25 years, is concerned that no one will be willing to pay the new fare, as passengers currently pay only 200 baisas.
“Meters are not suitable for us. The people who take taxis are poor, whether they are Omani or expats. For 200 baisas per trip, we have over 60 taxis parked here. We go out three hours per day, and make three or four trips. If you install a meter at 300 baisas to start with and 130 baisas per km, how much would that cost from Wadi Al Kabir? So, would an Omani or expat pay between OMR1.5 and 2 per trip? They refuse to pay 300 baisas right now, why would they pay OMR2? We only get three trips from morning to afternoon, and then maybe one more between noon and sunset,” Al Wahaibi said.
Jumaa Mahmood Al Balushi, another taxi owner, said that with the implementation of the new meter system, it would be difficult for them to make ends meet.
“We call on our good government and His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, as we are poor and only survive with help from our taxis, and some get a little more from social security. These 70 taxi owners will become unemployed after the meter is installed. Nobody would take a taxi with these fares, especially people from Asia. They’re here working hard for their money.”
“We have been driving for years, ever since we used Land Rovers during the time of Said bin Taymoor. We don’t work with meters, we negotiate over a reasonable fare between two poor persons,” Al Balushi added.
Another concerned taxi owner, who shares the same sentiment, said that with the new fare, people will be more inclined to take the bus.
“With the new fare starting from 300 baisas and every kilometre charged at 130 baisas, no one will take taxis and pay such high fares. Instead, they will now take a bus. Maybe one or two customers will take a taxi if they are in a hurry but they won’t use it on a daily basis.” There are currently some 36,000 orange taxis in Oman, with 20,000 of them operating in Muscat alone.