The traffic department is chasing old taxi drivers to usurp their number plates. Many of their taxi number plates have already been removed and a campaign is on to get the remaining taxi drivers to surrender theirs.

By V.m. Sathish (Contributor)

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Published: Tue 19 Apr 2005, 2:38 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 5:58 PM

As part of the Sharjah Municipality plan to phase out conventional taxidrivers, more than three thousand odd taxi number plates have to be surrendered to the traffic department. About 7,000 taxis used to operate in Sharjah and only a portion of them have surrendered their number plates.

While the exact number of old taxis on the road is unknown, according to sources only 2000 taxi drivers have surrendered their number plates so far. The Sharjah Government is trying to improve the city's transport infrastructure and make it more tourist-friendly. It is also encouraging new private taxi companies, which operate a modern fleet of vehicles.

'I have been caught several times by the trafic departments and they have asked me to surrender my number plate,' says one taxi driver. According to him, the taxi licence and mulkiya are yet to expire. The Emirati sponsor owns the old Sharjah taxi number plates, but the car belongs to the driver. Drivers pay Dh 500 to his Emarati sponsor for using their number plates. These number plates were given only to national citizens. In Dubai where the new metered taxi system has been successfully implemented, all the number plates owned by Emirati owners were taken over by the new companies.

'The new taxi companies may give Dh500 per month to the number plate owners after the old drivers are phased out,' says a taxi driver. 'We are not allowed to take people, but all of us are doing it illegally. Ordinary people depend on the old taxis, which is the only affordable means of transport here. Drivers who park in common places to pick up passengers are chased away and those who are caught red-handed are left with no option but surrender the number plate,' added one taxi driver. Once the number plate is surrendered they lose their visa, which comes as part of the taxi licence. The Sharjah Traffic police issues them a license, which is valid for one year for a fee of Dh3, 000.

'New licences are not given, but there are cases where old licences are renewed,' he said adding that there was a total confusion about their futures. Once the number plate is surrendered the taxi becomes a private vehicle. 'Many taxis drivers who have surrendered the number plates are running illegal taxis now. Once caught, they will be fined heavily. 'Earlier there was no business in Sharjah. Now there is good business, but we have to run taxis without being noticed by the police,' added another driver.

The new taxi companies and police are also preventing the new drivers from running the share-a-cab system, as an alternative to the old taxis. 'It is very difficult to generate business because old taxis and a number of illegal taxis are taking away business.

We hardly get any business because the new drivers are not familiar with the roads,' said the driver of a new taxi. 'We get only commissions and to make up for poor collections we have to take four passengers on sharing basis per trip.

During the peak traffic hours, it is difficult because the meter is running on the basis of time rather than the distance covered,' he added.

Ten minutes after getting jammed in traffic, the meter starts running and sometimes commuters have to pay high amount. 'Now we are not allowed to take passengers on sharing basis. We know it is illegal but there is no other option,' he added.

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