Illegal taxis in Abu Dhabi flourish as low cost entices customers

Dated: 22/07/2016

Ramona Ruiz (Abu Dhabi) - The National Newspaper

Trying to halt the flourishing business of illegal taxis and buses in the capital is a tough task for police when customers see a Dh10 legal bus pass as too pricey.

Warnings and hefty fines have not stopped many of the city’s low-paid workers using private cars and buses to get them from A to B because, they say, they are quicker and more convenient than public transport or taxis.

Illegal cabs are often seen operating on Muroor Road, in front of LifeLine Hospital opposite the city’s main bus terminal; near the Etisalat tower, off Electra Street; on Airport Road; and on 17th Street, near St ­Joseph’s Cathedral.

Passengers say the taxis are too expensive for them and some say that the city’s bus pass system is too technical for them.

Indian worker Shivam Kumar was waiting for a minibus on Muroor Road to travel to Baniyas labour camp, on the outskirts of the city. The minibus trip costs him only Dh5.

"I don’t have that much money to buy bus cards and, in fact, I’ve never bought one because it looks too complicated. Although before I travelled by bus, when we just used to drop a coin in," said Mr. Kumar, a carpenter.

"There are saloon cars but they ask Dh10 for a trip to the same place, so I don’t want to ride with them, so I’m waiting for the minibus."

Habibullah Jahan, a Bangladeshi worker, said that time was also a major factor.

"Buses take two hours to reach Baniyas – that’s another reason we avoid buses and take private cabs," he said, adding that the same distance in a TransAD taxi would cost no less than Dh60.

Both men know that their transport is illegal but neither was fearful of police fining them. "Let’s see when it happens. But, generally, police fine cabbies, not the riders," Mr. Jahan said.

Fines of Dh 8,000 and Dh 20,000 have not put cabbie Masood Khan off. He has been fined in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for his services and he will have to pay those fines if he wants to renew his license.

"Just recently I was fined when police caught me transporting passengers from Abu Dhabi to Musaffah and, last month, I was fined Dh20,000 at Dubai International Airport," he said.

"I am not literate, so can’t look for job, so what I can do? I don’t know anything else."

Another cab driver opposite Abu Dhabi’s main bus terminal, Taj Mohammed from Pakistan, was shouting out: "Musaffah, Baniyas. You don’t worry, police will not fine you, they will fine us."

He was looking to take passengers to Musaffah for Dh10.

Outside St Joseph’s Cathedral, minibuses were offering their services, creating a traffic jam.

The problem is at its height on Fridays and Sundays, as the minibuses drop off and pick up churchgoers.

John Conrad is a network manager in Abu Dhabi who visits St Joseph’s. "We face big problems particularly on Fridays and Sundays. They not only block the main road in front of the church but they also move inside the parking lot and park in the front of the church – it’s too much," he said.

"If we oppose them stopping there, they starting fighting us."

TransAD, the taxi regulator in Abu Dhabi, did not reply to questions.

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