Illegal taxis: The risky choice for passengers

Dhanusha Gokulan/staff Reporter
Filed on October 27, 2014
Illegal taxis: The risky choice for passengers

Despite severe crackdowns and penalties being levied on illegal taxi drivers in Dubai, it still seems to be an ongoing practice.

Ali M* drives around in a tinted maroon coloured Toyota Corolla in areas like Downtown Dubai, Business Bay, and financial locations in and around Shaikh Zayed Road and Al Khail Road. His work involves picking up people from their residences and dropping them to their place of work. He occasionally also drops ‘customers’ to nearby metro stations if he finds them stranded and waiting for a taxi, for a minimal cost of Dh10.

This reporter found Ali M near an office tower in business bay. “I can drop you to Al Nahda if you’re looking to go in that direction. If not, then I’ll drop you to the metro,” said Ali. In case he senses hesitation on the part of the customer, Ali flashes his business card and says, “I’ve been doing this for three years. You have nothing to be worried about.”

He takes the money a few moments before he reaches the destination, in fear of being caught by Road Transport Authorities (RTA) near the metro station.

Despite severe crackdowns and penalties being levied on illegal taxi drivers in Dubai, it still seems to be an ongoing practice. However unlike how it used to be a few years ago, the modus operandi of illegal taxis or private taxi drivers has become far slicker.

Dr Yousif Al Ali, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency stressed that there were several risk factors involved in hiring private taxis.

“There are several risks while hiring private/illegal taxis here in Dubai. For starters, it is not safe, especially since these cabs do not have a tracking system. The use of such cabs affects the public transportation system and there is a lack of monitoring and enforcement, resulting in not being able to meet customer satisfaction and needs. Most importantly, these services are not secure,” said Al Ali.

Several of the private taxi drivers get into the business to earn a living and get out of debt-related problems. For example, M.N.* who drives a Lexus SUV works full time at a five-star hotel in JLT. He said: “I work full time as a hotel driver. We don’t get paid much as hotel drivers and on days when I don’t make enough in tips, I take the car out looking for customers. I charge them as per the car meter.”

The penalty for driving private taxis in Dubai is steep. Al Ali said: “The current penalty is Dh5,000 fine for the first time and it will be double till third time after which the case will be forwarded to the court for further action.”

When M.N. was asked if he is willing to take the risk, he replied: “Desperate times call for desperate measures. I need the money to send back home.” Some of the drivers provide car lift services on a daily basis to areas like Jebel Ali, Media City, Tecom, and Internet City.

“I stopped driving to work a few months ago and I’ve been using this service. The driver charges me Dh2,000 per month,” said Jubail M, a resident of Twar.

A taxi driver employed with RTA told Khaleej Times, also on the condition of anonymity said that the illegal drivers can be a big nuisance.

“Taxi users assume that their services are cheaper, whereas in reality, hiring a private taxi is far more expensive and it is not safe,” he said. Despite the many options being provided to residents for public transport, people still try and use illegal taxis. Al Ali stated that people must stop assuming these taxis come at a “lower rate”.

“The society is not fully aware of the disadvantages of this low cost transportation method in terms of security, safety and other perspectives. Therefore, we want to improve awareness among people so that such services come to a stop,” said Al Ali.

*name changed to protect identity

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