Illegal taxis ‘popular’ in Dubai for cost and efficiency

M S, 45, from Bangladesh said he made more money by giving people lifts than his regular day job as a technician.

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DUBAI // Illegal taxis and buses in Dubai are popular among those on a small budget and with those wanting to make extra money, service providers and users say.

M S, 45, from Bangladesh, who has been a UAE resident for 10 years, said he made more money by giving people lifts than his regular day job as a technician.

He offered round trips from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for Dh250, while a regular taxi will charge about Dh350 for a one-way trip.

“As a technician, I don’t get projects often enough to take care of my expenses here and back home,” he said. “I started the service five years ago and, today, I can easily save Dh3,000 to 5,000 every month.”

About 7,000 vehicles were caught between January 1 and June 18 for illegal carpooling, which is transporting passengers without a permit.

Such carpooling constituted a threat to the public transport system in the emirate, negatively affected the level of service and entailed financial losses for the taxi franchise companies, the Roads and Transport Authority said.

A carpool provider said people opted to use his service for the sole reason that it was cheap. He transported more than 600 people across Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, he said.

“Illegal carpooling is usually used by the mid-income group. They don’t have their own cars and taxis are very expensive,” he said. “Buses and metros do not go everywhere, and most of the year, one cannot walk outside.

“So, the carpooling becomes the feasible option for those who don’t have a car. It picks them up from home and drops them at the office doorstep.”

K S, 35, an Indian woman who works for a private company in Dubai and who lives in Ajman, said: “It is not only affordable and convenient, but also efficient. I don’t have time and energy to change buses and metro routes to commute, and taxis are very expensive.”

She was aware it was illegal but said she had no other option financially as she had a family to support.

The Dubai Executive Council introduced resolution No 6 of 2016 as part of a plan to revamp the transport sector in the emirate and organise the activity of transporting passengers in taxis and limousines in a further effort to curb illegal carpooling.

“The resolution prohibits transporting passengers in vehicles not licensed for this purpose within the emirate or from Dubai to any other emirate,” said Abdulla Al Ali, chief executive of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s public transport agency.

Fines for these offences amounted to Dh20,000 for individuals and Dh50,000 for companies. Fines were doubled for repeated breaches.