By Neil Halligan
Officials complain that drivers using apps lack the necessary regulatory permits to operate in Saudi Arabia
Senior transport officials in Saudi Arabia have said the operation of taxi services that use smart apps, such as Uber, are illegal and do not have an official licence in the kingdom.
A spokesman for the Roads and Transportation Administration in Makkah, Omar Bamesfar, told Arabic daily Al Madina that taxis operators that use EasyTaxi and Uber do not have an official licence from the ministry of transport to operate in the kingdom.
Bamesfar said the ministry is currently working with the relevant authorities to force the companies who operate the taxis to apply for the necessary regulatory permits from all concerned agencies.
Similarly, the chairman of the national committee for Land Transport Council of Saudi Chambers, Saud Al Nufaye, said the companies in question were in clear violation of the taxi licensing system.
“These companies do not comply with the regulations for running taxis licensed by the Ministry of Transport, but provide services through the application using private cars leased and operated by local companies. This is against government regulations and there must be concerted efforts to prevent their work,” said Al Nufaye.
In response, Uber, which is part-owned by Qatar, said it is working with the relevant bodies to overcome the issues raised by various officials in the kingdom.
“Uber is a technology company providing digital lead generation services for licensed transport operators,” Majed Abukhater, Uber general manager, Saudi Arabia, told Arabian Business.
“We understand we are operating in a new space and this can cause some ambiguity. However, we are in a number of positive discussions with multiple stakeholders on how our technology works and where we fit in.
“The government in Saudi Arabia is very ambitious and is after solutions to make moving around cities easier. They are welcoming to global technologies that provide safe, reliable transportation options for users,” he added.
Uber currently has operations in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province (Dammam) of the kingdom.
Last year, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) was among investors who participated in a $1.2 billion financing round, according to the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper did not detail the exact size of QIA’s investment.