Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi will start taxi ranks in all residential and commercial areas of the emirate in the near future, a senior official said.
The taxi ranks will have several facilities for drivers and passengers, Abdullah Sultan Al Sabbagh, General Manager of TransAD, said. TransAD is the taxi regulatory authority in Abu Dhabi.
In an interview with Gulf News, Al Sabbagh said steps are being taken to improve the taxi service in the emirate.
Gulf News: Many people still complain about non-availability of taxis in Abu Dhabi. What are the steps taken by TransAD to improve the availability of taxis in the emirate?
Abdullah Sultan Al Sabbagh: Introducing taxi ranks and double shifts for taxi drivers are the important steps. The existing Tracking and Dispatching System (TDS) monitors the movement of taxis through MDTs [Mobile Data Terminal working through GPRS] in cabs and sends them to customers on demand.
Once the taxi ranks come up, the TDS can easily send taxis to the required area from the nearest taxi rank. The ranks will have rest rooms for taxi drivers, small cafeteria, ATM etc. A pilot project will be introduced soon.
How will the double shifts for taxi drivers work?
At least 20 per cent of the taxis will be available round the clock by next year, when taxi drivers start working in two shifts from January. Although cab drivers claim they work a minimum of 12 hours or more a day, our monitoring shows the actual working hours are eight only [out of 12].
They spend almost four hours on other things such as the transactions with the company, breakfast, tea break, lunch, prayer etc. At the moment taxis are working only under one shift because there is a shortage of drivers, until recently.
How do you ensure the availability of taxis inside the city?
We have allocated a particular share [of taxis] to each franchise to make taxi cabs available in all shopping malls in the city. Our inspectors are constantly watching the availability in such places and inform the call centre to dispatch more cabs to that particular place, if required. Franchises have also appointed their own inspectors for this purpose.
There was a delay in introducing new silver taxis due to lack of drivers. What is the present situation?
Lack of qualified drivers did cause delay in introducing new cabs because most of the franchises tried to recruit drivers locally. There was not enough availability of drivers locally. Most of the drivers of the phased out gold and white taxis did not meet the criteria of TransAD in terms of English and Arabic language skill, hygiene and customer service. [So they were not recruited].
Only one out of seven franchises was able to introduce close to a thousand taxis [out of allocated number of 1,021] because they started recruiting drivers from overseas from the beginning. TransAD has given necessary guidelines to the franchises to recruit enough number of drivers and thus most of the companies have completed their recruitment process.
Now all franchises have followed it and the recruitment process has been completed. I had meetings with the Immigration, Traffic Police and Emirates Driving School (EDS) to facilitate the speedy recruitment and training of taxi drivers.
EDS is giving round the clock training to the drivers. The drivers are from 22 nations but most of them are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; Nepal, Egypt, Syria and Sudan. The initial plan of the TransAD was to introduce 7,147 new silver taxis under seven franchises.
What is the progress in this regard?
Out of the 9,300 taxis plying on the streets of the emirate, 4,600 are new silver taxis and 4,700 are old gold and white cabs. The number of silver cabs will go up to 5,000 by the end of December and all the 7,147 silver cabs will be on the streets by the first quarter of 2010. Considering the future demand, we are planning to introduce two more franchises by next year.
How many old taxis have been phased out?
Out of 8,700 old taxis [gold and white], 3,929 have been phased out. Our periodic survey reveals that demand for taxis are still little bit more, so the old taxis will be phased out in proportion to the introduction of new taxis.
The entire old fleet will disappear by the end of 2012 because of the relevant law which says only old taxis which have completed five years of service could be phased out. Apart from old gold and white taxis, small cars among the silver taxis in the emirate will also be withdrawn within two years.
Why have the small cars among silver taxis been withdrawn?
The move is to improve the image of taxi service and comfort of passengers. We want the taxis to have comfortable space for three passengers on the rear seat. Following the unification of taxi fares of all silver taxis in February 2009, we felt it is not fair that passengers paying same higher amount for small cars. [Earlier spacious premium cars had higher tariff, a minimum of Dh3 and small cars had lower tariff, a minimum of Dh2.60]. TransAD has stopped renewing the taxi permits of the small cars since early 2009 except for a few which had taken prior permission.
Taxi drivers have protested several times alleging salary cuts and related mistreatment by the franchises. What are the measures taken to solve this?
The rental scheme run by the franchises was stopped. We have introduced basic salary plus commission plus accommodation scheme for drivers. TransAD will introduce a unified drivers contract very soon which will solve all such problems.
What about the progress in developing the system to pay taxi fare through credit card, mobile phone (SMS) or prepaid cards?
Efforts to develop a system called ‘mTaxi Solutions' to pay taxi fare through mobile phones are under process. Pre-paid cards are under study. The use of credit card may take some time.
- 9,300 taxis ply the roads of Abu Dhabi emirate
- 4,600 silver taxis currently on the streets of emirate
- 1,380small cars among silver taxis (30 per cent)
- 4,700 old gold and white taxis ply Abu Dhabi roads
- 3,929 old gold and white taxis phased out
600535353 to book a taxi or lodge a complaint
Find lost things in cab even if you forget taxi number
You lost something in a cab but does not remember the taxi number, still a new system can identify the taxi, Al Sabbagh said.
"The passenger has to remember the taxi fare paid, time of traveling and location only. When we feed any of those two inputs, the TDS will shortlist the taxis, most probably the same taxi . If no information found from those taxi drivers , even complainants can visit TransAD to identify the drivers from the picture data base of taxi drivers.
To avoid this much complications , TransAD has made it compulsory for drivers to print the bill and give it to the customers , even if not demanded. [earlier , drivers had to give it on demand only]. Passengers are also advised to take the bills which will have the taxi number and all related details.
TransAD is developing a new system which will send messages to MDTs (Mobile Data Terminals) of taxis as soon as a complaint is lodged. (
So, even if any taxi drivers have an intention not to return the ‘lost and found' item, he will feel he is under the observation and may change his mind (End of box 3, two more boxes follow)
Customers can directly call on mobile phone of driver if booked cab is late
Customers booking a taxi through Tracking and Dispatching system can soon receive an SMS with the mobile phone number of driver, taxi number and expected arrival etc, Al Sabbagh said.
"So that customer can directly call up the driver, if the taxi does not arrive in time; we are developing the system which will be ready soon", he explained.
Only five per cent of the total passengers utilize the booking system which costs Dh 5 per booking. Such a culture [booking a taxi] has not developed in the region yet.
Currently, taxis reach the customer within ten minutes during off peak hours and within 20 minutes during peak hours.