Uber, Careem not operating in Oman: Al Futaisi

Oman Sunday 14/May/2017 21:40 PM
By: Times News Service
Uber, Careem  not operating in Oman: Al Futaisi

Muscat: National taxi companies will not include private cars, the Minister of Transport and Communications promised after the unveiling a new strategy for public transport.
Read also: Orange taxis in Oman get deadline to join Marhaba
The minister pointed out that Uber and Careem are not operating in the Sultanate. The ministry had informed Careem car services that they cannot operate in the country, especially as the company includes private cars, which is contrary to the rules followed in the Sultanate.
Residents expressed both support and concern regarding the ministry limiting on-demand taxi services to Mwasalat and Marhaba.
“Two companies that have been authorised to operate the taxis—Mwasalat and Marhaba—will be the only ones allowed to operate in agreed upon areas, including hotels, airports and commercial complexes, as well as allowed to operate “taxi on-demand” through electronic application requests,” Dr Ahmed Al Futaisi said.
He also stressed that Mwasalat and Marhaba taxis may operate any number of vehicles and drivers, as long as drivers who join are existing taxi drivers.
Ghaida Al Farsi, a resident, said, “Honestly, everything depends on how efficient Marhaba taxis are with their application and how smooth the transport process is. I understand the need to keep it local with the existing workforce of taxi drivers, but Careem and Uber are international companies that have gone through the trial and error process. They know what works and what doesn’t with starting a more advanced car service.”
Currently, the fare for requesting a Marhaba taxi starts at OMR3 as base fare, which would cover the first six kilometres of a passenger’s journey.
Past that, every kilometre would cost 350 baisas, until the journey surpasses 12 kilometres, and the fare then reduces to 150 baisas per kilometre. For many residents, this is a steep price to pay, compared with regional taxi on-demand services.
“Prices need to be fair. If it (the prices) is true, then taxis will die out in Oman as no one will use them,” said Alex Bradbury.
“I think Oman should introduce Uber, and if the concern is that it will take away the jobs from locals, then they can make it so only Omanis are licenced to operate,” another resident, Jamal Bradley stated.
However, not all residents think that private cab companies should be welcome here.
“I think that the Sultanate is within its right to limit the access for companies like Uber to our market, in order to protect Oman’s taxi drivers and companies,” Ahmed Al Kindi, a web developer, explained.
“Uber may undercut prices of all the taxis and create a monopoly in the business. Scrutinising these private services is actually something that needs to be done. I think they could be permitted to have operations here, but under heavy regulations. Uber has some questionable practices as a company, so we should be wary of private companies in general,” Al Kindi said.
Minister Al Futaisi also revealed that agreements have been reached for taxis to have metered fares, instead of drivers setting their own prices. In addition to that, the Minister hopes that these new measures will eliminate taxi ride sharing, so that taxis would transport single requests at a time.
Kendrick Tolentino Pangilinan, an Oman resident, explained, “(It is good) for more regulations to come into effect to benefit the public. Reasonable fare rates would be great.”