Car pooling in the UAE Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: Residents who had been using the Sharekni permits issued by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) for carpooling have been left confused about whether or not they can continue ride-sharing as the RTA has stopped issing the permits.

Hundreds of residents in Dubai and other emirates were using Sharekni, the RTA’s official carpooling platform, which enabled motorists to register for the permits as well as finding residents interested in sharing a ride with them.

However, the authority recently stopped issuing the ridesharing permits and has even taken down its Sharekni website, leaving motorists confused about the legality of carpooling.

The RTA’s carpooling website www.sharekni.ae redirects to a blank page with a notice that confirms that the Sharekni permits are not available anymore.

“In our efforts to provide you with the best possible services, we will be shutting down Sharekni service, from 20th December 2017. Moreover, no new sharekni permits will be issued after this date. However, all issued permits before 20th December 2017 will be valid till their expiry date mentioned in the permit but they will not be renewed,” reads the notice.

Speaking to Gulf News, a senior RTA offcial confirmed that Sharekni has been suspended.

“RTA has currently suspended Sharekni or the car-sharing services, we are studying other effective alternatives to cater to the public demand,” said Mohammad Abu Bakr Al Hashemi, Director, Planning and Business Development at RTA’s Public Transport Agency. 

He added that the RTA encourages commuters to use public transport and other smart alternatives. 

“RTA has introduced various services which include ‘Smart Car Rental’, taxis, limousine and E-Hail services to help commuters reach their destinations and connect with different public transport modes. We encourage commuters to use public transport and other smart alternatives,” said Al Hashemi.

However, it is not clear whether commuters can continue to carpool privately without permits and many are worried they are at risk of attracting fines.
Left clueless

“I used to share a ride with one of my colleagues to and from work, who had RTA’s permit. When the permit expired, he tried to renew the permit and found out that the permit is not issued anymore. We are clueless now and we are not getting any information about the legality of car-sharing and we are worried that we might attract fines anytime,” said Mohammad Murtaza.

Tony Abraham, another commuter, said his Sharekni permit expired earlier this month and he was unaware of the suspension until he logged on to the website to renew his permit. 

“I don’t understand what is the logic behind cancellation of this service. This is something very good for the environment and also helps reduce traffic. I had three people sharing the car with me, now they are all using different cars, which means more traffic on the road; the decision just doesn’t make sense,” said Abraham who travels daily between Dubai and Sharjah.

The RTA was non-committal on the matter. “For the safety and security of passengers, they are advised to use alternatives like ‘Smart Car Rental’ through Ekar and UDrive, taxis, limousines or Ehail services,” said Al Hashemi.

Operating illegal transport service in Dubai can attract a fine ranging from Dh5,000 to Dh50,000 and carpooling without any permit might amount to illegal transport.