By Beatrice Thomas
Operators claim they had to raise journey fares because of the rising cost of living
Saudi taxi drivers have been accused of unfairly hiking fares in a bid to exploit the shortage of drivers caused by the kingdom’s crackdown on illegal foreign workers, it was reported.
With fewer taxi drivers on the roads because of the crackdown, passengers claim many legal cabbies are now exploiting customers by charging higher fares.
They say drivers are now charging a basic fare of SR20 ($5) even for short distances, Arab News reported. In addition, they claim the drivers want SR30 to SR50 ($8-13) for routes that previously cost SR15 to SR20 ($4-5).
Many drivers also do not know the city's routes and destinations, passengers claim.
Ahsanul Tanvir, a regular taxi user, was quoted as saying he had to wait 10 to 20 minutes to get a taxi. When he found one, the driver demanded SR20 to SR50 ($5-13) for a distance that previously cost him SR10 to SR15 ($2.7-4).
Muzammil Haque, another regular user, said he was recently charged SR20 ($5) to go to a hospital, and then SR30 ($8) for the return journey.
Mohammed Ameen, who has an eye problem, told the daily English newspaper it had become difficult for him to reach his office every day.
“If Jeddah had a bus service like the UK and other countries around the world, it would really help,” he was quoted as saying. “I'm waiting for the Jeddah metro to ease my problems.”
Hafizur Rahman, a motorist, told Arab News that he recently saw a taxi company ground 200 cars because it did not have legal drivers.
Mustaq Ahmed, a taxi driver, said that drivers have little choice but to raise their fares.
“Company owners keep increasing the rent. It used to be SR150 ($40) a day, but now we have to pay more plus the SR2,400 ($640) fee to renew our iqamas. We have to do something to survive.”
Another taxi driver said that drivers had to hike their fares because of the rising cost of living.
The Jeddah Transport Department recently impounded more than 350 taxis because their drivers violated various traffic regulations.
Abdullah Al Qahtani, deputy chairman of the public fares committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was reported as saying in a statement that the Transport Ministry had plans to control fares by making taxi meters mandatory.