Muscat: Muscat will begin to implement meters for orange and white taxis by the end of this year, ahead of a nationwide rollout, according to the Ministry of Transport and Communications. An official at the ministry told Times of Oman: “Marhaba and Mwasalat taxis are already metered. The first phase of implementation for meters for ‘orange [private ] taxis’ is expected by the end of this year and will include Muscat as a first step,then move towards the rest of the governorates. “Implementation methods for this will be announced at a later date, but we are working on the project,” he added.
Asked about whether pricing for the metered taxis has changed, he said: “The executive lists for these issues came by ministerial decision and remain so to this date.”
The ministry has already announced that, if the price on the meter is high, passengers may negotiate directly with the taxi driver and come to an agreement, thereby bypassing the meter price.
According to ministerial decision 195/2018, customers will be charged 130 baisas per kilometre travelled, in addition to 300 baisas as service charge, which will be activated when customers sit in the taxi. However, if the fares are lower than OMR1, then a flat fare of OMR1 is applicable.
Speaking about this decision, H.E Shura Council member and representative of Boushar, Aziz Al Hasani, who was formerly a taxi driver, said that taxis having meters implemented is a “done deal”. He voiced concerns about how both the public and the taxi drivers can be protected by the new regulations.
Al Hasani said: “It is important to pose some questions about how the meters are implemented. How will the law impact taxi drivers who are not based in Muscat? Can they still operate in the governorate or will they be prohibited from doing so? Furthermore, will implementing the meters depend on where the car was first registered?”
According to the Shura Council member, one of his most important concerns was the announcement that using the meter fares would be optional for passengers and that they can agree with the driver on lower rates.
“This law could very well protect tourists from high taxi fares, but most passengers are not tourists but either citizens or residents in Oman, and for them the fare might be too high which might lead to taxis having fewer customers.”
According to Al Hasani, he had met with the chairman of the Shura Council, the Minister of Transport and Communication, and the undersecretary of the same ministry to discuss this issue.
Al Hasani said: “ The Chairman, the minister and I agreed, in the presence of the undersecretary, that meters should be optional for passengers, which means that the passenger (not the driver) can choose to waive the meter fee and agree with the driver on a different price”.
Al Hasani also voiced his concerns about who would foot the bill for the costs of installing meters, how easy it would be to maintain them and what alternative pricing methods were available if a meter malfunctioned.
In all cases, the councillor agreed that he is for regulation in this sense, and that meters might be able to protect tourists from price-gouging by the owners of private taxis in Oman.
Good for tourism
Agreeing with Al Hasani, H.E Ahmed Al Hadhrami who is the Shura Council representative for Nizwa, told Times of Oman, “I believe that having the regulation is, in essence, positive since it provides a clear system for pricing, and that it might be good for tourism as well since it can protect people from price-gouging.”