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Registered taxis exempted from using mobile app

Taxi drivers denied planning to stage a strike.



The Transport Authority has exempted registered taxis from a new rule that made it mandatory for all taxis operating in the capital to start using a mobile application by October 1.

The rule will apply to taxis that register after August 1, Transport Authority said on Tuesday, amending regulations announced last week.

It also announced that individuals who wish to provide a private hire service through the approved mobile apps must register with the authority.

The exemption came after taxi drivers planned to file a lawsuit to stop the enforcement of the new rules. They also objected to fixed rates that came into force on Wednesday with MVR75 (US$5) set for rides between Malé and Hulhumalé, down from the unofficial MVR100 that taxis started charging after capital and its suburb were connected via the Sinamalé bridge last year.

In a further concession, the Transport Authority allowed taxis to continue charging an extra MVR5 between midnight and 6am.

Taxi drivers changed their tune and welcomed the new rates on Tuesday.

Abdulla Ibrahim, president of the Taxi Drivers Association, told the press that the group was “very satisfied” with the rates. But drivers will continue to lobby for the introduction of taxi meters, he said, adding that drivers were willing to bear the cost of installing the meters.

The transport ministry previously planned to introduce meters as recommended by taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers also denied planning to stage a strike on Wednesday. A lasting solution would be to introduce meters and set a price per kilometre within band limits, they said.

On Tuesday, police launched an operation to penalise taxis that overcharge customers. Police officers would also check for roadworthiness and impound vehicles that have been in use for more than 20 years, it was announced.

About 1,200 taxis are registered to operate in the congested island of Malé and its suburb Hulhumalé.

Last week, Transport Minister Aishath Nahula said that the new rules were enacted after consultations with the public and taxi drivers.

The minister previously sat down with disgruntled taxi drivers after they refused to start charging new rates announced in late 2018.

In January, taxi drivers went on strike in protest against an aborted decision to enforce a fixed rate of MVR40 for a bridge crossing. Taxis were allowed to continue charging MVR100 as the transport ministry stopped using undercover police and penalising drivers.

The move drew criticism as the public objected to the settled price and many commuters from Hulhumalé resumed using the ferry.