Abu Dhabi bus users complain of fare-dodging passengers

Bus drivers and residents complain of passengers avoiding the requires card scans on Abu Dhabi public buses.

The new buses have been introduced for the f1 race and will then be used to support the city bus system. Lauren Lancaster / The National
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ABU DHABI // Passengers are dodging fares on Abu Dhabi’s public buses – and those caught are not being punished.

The automated fare collection system called Hafilat – "buses" in Arabic – was launched in May last year to ensure quicker fare collection and reduce congestion while getting on and off the buses.

Coin boxes on buses were removed in October and replaced by the Hafilat smart cards, which are "charged' with money and need to be scanned when the passenger gets on and off.

However, many passengers are either ignoring the scanner or pretending to use a card.

Drivers admit they see people dodging a fare but say that “it is not our job to catch them”, and that it was the duty of inspectors to apprehend them.

Yet, even when fare-dodgers are caught they are let off with a warning, said a staff member at Abu Dhabi main bus terminal.

Fare-paying passengers are upset with those who do not pay.

“Many passengers board the bus and tell the driver they don’t have a card,” said Edna, a 61-year-old Filipina housewife.

“Others have cards but still need to recharge them. I think it’s unfair to those who buy or recharge their cards and pay for their fare.”

There are card validators at bus entrances and exits. The fare, calculated automatically based on the journey distance, is deducted from the card.

A bus fare within the city costs Dh2. Fares to the suburbs start at Dh2, plus five fils for each extra kilometre, with Dh5 the average fare. The intercity fare costs from Dh10 plus 10 fils a kilometre, with Dh25 being the average fare.

“Sometimes, passengers will tell the bus driver they forgot their bus card and offer cash,” said Michelle de la Cruz, 35, a Filipina. “While some drivers are lenient and allow them to board the bus without paying, others tend to refuse entry and ask them to buy a card.”

From his rear-view mirror, 50-year-old bus driver Hamza Abubaker has seen people entering from the back or middle doors without paying.

“I press one button to open three doors,” he said. “I can see them, but what can I do?”

Occasionally, some passengers pretend to tap their Emirates ID on the card scanners, according to Nader Khan, 34, a Pakistani who has driven bus numbers 11, 32, 54 and 7 for the past eight years.

“Many of them don’t pay but it’s not our job to catch them,” he said.

A bus driver, who did not want to be named, said it was the duty of inspectors to apprehend fare dodgers. Officials at the Department of Transport were not available for comment.

However, a staff member at the Abu Dhabi main bus terminal said fare dodgers were given a verbal warning.

Inspectors are equipped with portable card readers that allow them to check passengers’ Hafilat cards.

“For now, they will not be given a fine,” the staff member said. “Inspectors will just advise them to buy or recharge their Hafilat cards.”