Muscat: Four years after authorities first ruled in favour of them, meters have again been rejected by drivers of Oman’s traditional ‘orange and white’ taxis during a meeting with the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Taxi drivers’ spokesperson Suleiman Al Jardani, speaking on behalf of around 500 ‘orange’ taxi drivers, said that meters are not desirable, since with the current rates it would be too expensive for passengers, which he fears would lead to a loss of customers.
“If we would start using meters, the prices customers would have to pay will be too high. Then we will start losing customers”, he said. The meeting between the Ministry of Transport and Communications, representatives of taxi drivers and the Royal Oman Police (ROP), held last Monday, was aimed at coming up with the best practices for developing the taxi sector.
Aziz Al Hassani, member of the Shura Council and representative of Bausher, who attended the meeting, agreed that meters are not suitable for the taxis here since “the way people use taxis here is different from those used in other countries.”
He said that meters are more appropriate for airport or hotel taxis. The decision to introduce meters in airport taxis and later in all taxis was taken by the Municipal Council of Muscat in 2012 and subsequently approved by the Muscat Municipality.
Al Jardani said that instead of introducing meters, both drivers and passengers would benefit from an official approval of the fixed rates the sector has already agreed upon. He added that it will improve transparency for customers.
“We want our current rates endorsed by the government. We have previously asked the Ministry and Muscat Municipality to accept our rates, but until now, they haven’t done so.
Al Jardani said that there are drivers who charge customers too much money and there are drivers who charge them lower rates than agreed upon.
“These drivers are spoiling the market and giving the sector a bad image. Anyone who does not follow our fixed rates should be fined,” he said.
Al Jardani confirmed that taxi drivers want to see the sector regulated, including an obligatory permission from the Ministry for all drivers to drive a taxi.
“We want everyone to get permission from the Ministry, as we are facing problems because of private persons using their cars as a taxi,” he noted.
He said that this measure will protect the sector against private taxis.
He added that the minimum wage for those who want to work as taxi driver should be increased from the current OMR450 to between OMR600 and OMR700.
The minimum age of the driver should be set at 21, Al Jardani explained; maximum age has not been defined as “there are retired drivers with very little income.”
Commenting on the maximum age of taxi vehicles, Al Jardani said that the maximum of seven years, which the Ministry proposed, would harm drivers’ financial interests. Instead, cars should not be older than 10 years.
“If I get a brand new car and pay in five instalments, how will I benefit in seven years?” he asked.
In addition, Al Jardani told the Times of Oman that taxi drivers have asked the Ministry for more parking spaces and stations where they can work from.