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Jeddah cabbies complain about myriad problems
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 12 - 09 - 2012


Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH – There are around 35,000 taxicabs operated by some 420 companies in Jeddah, according to a recent report by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (JCCI) committee for taxi companies.
However, taxi drivers in the Kingdom are facing myriad problems, such as few passengers, worn-out vehicles, exorbitant takings targets, among many others.
Drivers who spoke to a local Arabic newspaper have said that there has been a tremendous increase in illegal taxi drivers lately, which has drastically affected their income. The distressed drivers have asked the authorities to solve their problems and make their job enjoyable and profitable.
Mahdi Al-Yami, a taxi driver, said that there are large numbers of foreigners who illegally work as taxi drivers. “These illegal drivers are usually those whose visas have expired or work two jobs to earn more. Some illegal drivers have ganged up to target potential areas and taxi drivers like him are left to roam the streets for hours looking for fares,” Al-Yami added.
Another taxi driver, Muhammad Al-Qahtani, shared Al-Yami's views. “Private taxis are a major threat because they charge lower fares,” he said.
Some drivers are financially exploited by their employers. Muhammad Rizq said that when he joined the company, he had to pay half the amount he earned in a day to his employer. After sometime, the company made Rizq bear the maintenance cost of his vehicle.
Another major problem faced by drivers is the unavailability of state-of-the-art vehicles. According to Ahmad Al-Attawi, a member of the JCCI committee, taxis in Jeddah do not meet international standards and hence their drivers are not in a position to cater to tourists in the city, which is considered the gateway to not only the two holy cities but other destinations as well.
The Ministry of Transport has currently prevented existing companies from buying additional taxis. The investors have then resorted to establishing new companies. To resolve this problem, Al-Attawi has called on all existing taxi companies to merge to form joint stock companies.
Saeed Al-Bassami, deputy chairman of the National Committee for Land Transport, recently unveiled plans to establish a joint stock company with a paid capital of SR1 billion.
Al-Bassami said more than 730 investors, who own around 30,000 cabs, are seriously thinking of transforming their firms into a joint stock company within the next two years. He said taxis operated by the big companies would have features similar to taxis in London and other metropolitan cities. They will be equipped with latest technology and their movements could be monitored by GPS technology.
Al-Attawi also underlined the need for introducing a global system to govern taxi fares on the basis of factors such as the total days worked in a year and the level of rent drivers pay company owners, among others.
“There should be strict regulations with regard to fixing fares. “At present, both drivers and customers are not concerned about following the meter pricing system,” he added.


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