2017 to be the year of taxi meters in Oman

Oman Sunday 08/January/2017 22:09 PM
By: Times News Service
2017 to be the year of taxi meters in Oman

Muscat: A decade after they were first proposed, meters will finally be installed in hundreds of taxis by the end of 2017, as Mwasalat announced its entry into the taxi market.
At least 500 Mwasalat taxis will begin operating soon, and will install meters in their cars before the year end, promised Ahmad bin Ali Al Bulushi, CEO of Mwasalat.
The company, which transformed public transport in 2016, will manage 150 airport taxis, 150 at malls and 200 taxis on call, beginning in the first quarter of this year. “We are working closely with the Ministry of Transport to regulate the taxi business in Oman, and hope to start operating our vehicles by the first quarter of this year. By the end of this year, all our taxis will run on meters,” confirmed Al Bulushi.
According to the plan, customers will be able to book these taxis with the help of an app or by calling a call centre.
Currently, Mwasalat is on a hiring spree and seeking to employ people to manage its taxi business. “We are looking at Omani nationals who can be hired as directors of taxi services, supervisors who can control a fleet of cars, and for many other posts,” declared Al Bulushi.
Expatriates may be hired if the company fails to find the right person among Omanis. “However, our first choice is Omani nationals,” he insisted.
Travelling by taxi can be similar to a lottery in Oman, with no uniform fares. For example, from Ruwi to the airport some taxis charge OMR5, while others may charge OMR10 or more.
“We want to improve taxi services in Oman, which will also help the drivers maximise their incomes,” explained Al Bulushi.
Muscat was set to receive metered taxis in 2008, but a Dubai-based company left the project, citing the economic slowdown.
Since then, the government has been looking for ways to improve taxi services in the Sultanate.
In June 2016, two companies were awarded taxi licences by the Ministry of Transport — Mwasalat and Al Ibtikar for Informatics Technology — to operate taxis in Muscat.
Meter system
Welcoming the meter system, existing taxi drivers said they would also install meters. “It is good that taxis will install meters, as it will benefit customers and drivers. Having a fare structure is always better, as can be seen by the success of airport taxis,” noted Abdullah Al Shibli, who represents the taxi drivers.
“Many taxi drivers fleece passengers, which is not good,” said Mohammad, another taxi driver, who operates a taxi at the Ruwi bus stand.
Mohammed Al Battashi, who drives a taxi at a five-star hotel, said fares must be kept low to lure passengers. “We do not know the fares yet, so I cannot comment on whether it will be good or bad, but fares should be low to draw more people,” he noted.
Customers also agreed taxis should be metered. “Most developed countries have a metering system for their taxi services. It is high time that we also have it here,” said Sunil, an Indian expat, who uses taxis twice a day.
Taxi services must be regulated and professional, D B Chettri, a private sector employee,noted. “Personally, I do not use taxi services in Oman, as it is difficult to find them, and then you have to bargain with the drivers,” he said, stating that metered taxis are needed on Oman’s roads.
“Now, we have to pay whatever they demand, so meters are welcome. But the fares must be competitive, when compared to other parts of the world,” he asserted.