Metered taxis in KSA may become a reality after all

The end of the road is in sight for fleecing cabbies as the government plans to implement fare meters in taxis to stabilize the rising cost of travel. The new regulation will make it mandatory for cabbies to install the meters and charge passengers as per the readings is to be discussed and implemented after Eid. Abdullah Al-Qahtani, deputy chairman of the Public Fares Committee of theJeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( JCCI ), said a series of meetings would be held between the JCCI and the Ministry of Transport after Eid to determine how the new regulation can be implemented.
He said the Transport Ministry has come up with new regulations that make it binding for all taxi drivers to use meters as a measure to check rising taxi fares. Only the new officially recognized meter fare would be applicable, which would reduce the number of complaints from the public, he said. The taxi sector, however, is skeptical about the move, claiming that contrary to its stated objective of checking rising fares, it would only lead to a drop in commuters taking taxis since they will be paying SR20 following implementation of the new rule compared to the usual fare of SR10 that they have been paying for decades.
Many taxi drivers said customers, especially expats, who once paid SR10 or SR15 for a certain trip will not accept this decision. Jeddah and other Saudi cities are huge in terms of area, and the introduction of meters will result in some trips costing more than SR30, cabbies say. “I do not know whether this decision will be made mandatory or not,” Abdullah Hafez, an Egyptian taxi driver, told Arab News. “If it is binding, it can result in fewer commuters using taxis. No one will be willing to pay by the meter since it would be exorbitant. Citizens and expats alike are used to paying less than SR25.”
Trip fares are currently determined through bargaining between the customer and the taxi driver, but with the introduction of metered fare, taxi drivers will be required to pay higher amounts to their employers daily when this decision is applied. “While we will be required to pay more than SR250 in daily profit to our employers, taxi drivers will have to face customers who will not be willing to go by the meter fare,” said Salem Al-Sanaani, a Yemeni taxi driver. Majada, a nurse at a Jeddah hospital, said she is dependent on taxis for her mobility, and that she pays SR10 per trip.
“Once the meter decision is implemented, no taxi driver will be willing to work for anything less than SR20 because their excuse will be that the company they work for will demand doubling of their daily revenues,” she said. Ali Al-Ghamdi said he has made special provision in his budget to visit hospitals. “It used to cost me SR25 for a one-way trip from my house to the hospital. Taxi drivers are now demanding SR40,” he said, adding that he is forced to cancel his visit to hospital because of the high taxi cost. Expat Mukhtar Ahmad said he relies on taxis and says up until recently, the fares were reasonable. “Today, the tariffs have gone haywire and I have stopped using taxis altogether and use private (taxi) cars although it is a violation of the law,” he said.