Shift change: It is very difficult for people to get taxis between 4.30 and 5.30pm as there is a shift change during this period. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/XPRESS

Dubai: Residents using public transport in Dubai are crying foul over the lack of taxis during the evening hours as taxi drivers refuse to pick them up on the pretext of changing shifts.

“It’s almost impossible to get a taxi between 4pm and 5.30pm in Dubai. I face this problem every day after work,” said Sara, who works on Al Wasl Road and takes taxis to her Deira home.

Mala Shankar, a housewife who recently visited a clinic on Jumeirah Beach Road, recounted her ‘endless wait’ for a taxi in the summer heat. “I waited for a taxi from 3.40pm to around 5pm, but without any luck. I felt so helpless. I walked up to the nearest bus stop which was 10 minutes away and boarded the first bus. I didn’t care where it went, as I just wanted to get out of that area and reach Deira where I live,” she said.

Authorities, however, told XPRESS taxi operators are expected to make 90 per cent of their fleet available on the road at any given time of the day.

Abdullah Abdul Rahman Al Ali, director, franchise and monitoring of the Public Transport Agency at Dubai’s Road Transport Authority (RTA) said there are 19,325 taxi drivers plying 8,997 taxis in Dubai.

“Six franchisee companies are working in the taxi sector — Dubai Taxi, Cars, Metro, National, Arabia and Medina. Every company has a different shift-changing time, but as per the taxi services level agreement signed and approved by franchisee companies, 90 per cent of taxi fleets should be on the road all the time, even during rush or peak hours,” he said.

This means that of the 8,997 taxis registered in Dubai, 8,097 vehicles must run on the roads at all times.

“If any company’s fleet falls below the performance percentage, it will be penalised,” said Al Ali. He said during a shift change, drivers do not accept passengers as they have to go back to the depot for vehicle maintenance, refuel and service in time for the next driver’s shift.

Al Ali said: “In case the driver refuses to pick up any customer for any other reason, the penalty is Dh800 plus eight black points.”

Passengers said they have to flag several taxis down before one of them stops. “So many taxis drive past, but none will take me saying their shift has ended. Some don’t even bother stopping,” said Abby, who works in Dubai Media City and lives in The Greens

Al Ali advised people using taxis during shift-changing hours to call the taxi dispatch center at 04-2080808.