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Taxi drivers voice demands for decisions to soften economic blow of coronavirus

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Jun 17,2020 - Last updated at Jun 17,2020

The licensing of a taxi costs between JD850 and JD900 annually, according to a sector representative (JT file photo)

AMMAN — Public transport, especially cabs and shared taxis, have been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, and are still unable to operate at full capacity as health standards require them to carry no more than 50 per cent of their usual number of passengers, according to a sector representative.

From a complete suspension of work in mid-March to tight curfew hours with few people venturing far from their homes to the odd-even licence plate system, cab and shared taxi drivers, like workers in many other sectors, have witnessed significant financial losses.

To understand the current problems facing taxi drivers, The Jordan Times contacted President of the Transport Services and Taxi Owners Union Ahmad Abu Haidar over the phone on Wednesday. 

“Shared taxis are only allowed 50 per cent of their passengers, and these fares are not enough for refilling on fuel and buying necessities,” Abu Haidar said.

Shared taxi drivers in particular are demanding increased fares in order to compensate for the financial losses resulting from the lower passenger capacity being enforced by authorities, he said.

He noted that the union has been in touch with the Land Transport Regulatory Commission (LTRC) and has received news that the permitted passenger load will soon be raised to 75 per cent, however “nothing tangible” has taken place yet.

Taxis designated for long-distance travel have not been operating since February, Abu Haider pointed out, noting that even before the coronavirus crisis, the state of the sector was “very bad”.

The union president commented: “As long as drivers are only allowed 50 per cent of their passenger load, the money they make will not be enough to cover their personal expenses and the expenses of the taxis they drive.”

Yousef Al Sartawi, the spokesperson for an unofficial entity representing a group of taxi drivers, told The Jordan Times over the phone that owners of cab offices “need to be exempted from licensing fees as well as from municipality and LTRC fees, noting that the licensing of a taxi costs between JD850 and JD900 annually, while licensing a private vehicle costs just JD150.

According to Sartawi, it will be “difficult” to pay these fees at the end of the year because of the three-month pause in operations. 

“Even now,” he said, “there are no university or school students, many are working from home still and there are no expatriates, which means work is still hindered.”

Abu Haidar and Sartawi both noted that drivers are unable to take groups of three and four because of the current laws, which Sartawi said “forces people to seek private vehicles instead”.

Moreover, when the restrictions of lockdown were eased, Sartawi said that “people thought that [taxi drivers] started working at full capacity and landlords and anyone who needs money from us now thinks we are working and can pay them, but this is not the case”.

Commenting on news circulated about the demands of shared taxi drivers, citizen Mousa Akram wrote on social media: “They increased the fares on their own without waiting for any decisions.”

“They are taking JD0.5 now without a decision, and if you give them the previous normal fare, they tell you that it is not enough,” local Amani Kamal Alshaer wrote.

As for Rabia Rifae, she also commented that the drivers in her area increased fares by 10 piasters of their own accord, while many others wrote that they have seen shared cab drivers carrying full loads of passengers. 

According to Abu Haidar, a total of 27,000 vehicles are used as public transport vehicles in the Kingdom, including 17,000 yellow taxis, 5,000 shared taxis, 3,000 vehicles for training and 2,000 taxis for long-distance travel.


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