Taxi drivers in the capital and its suburb are preparing to file a lawsuit against new rules and fixed rates announced last week.
On Thursday, the Transport Authority made it mandatory for taxis operating Malé and Hulhumalé to start using a mobile application within two months.
With effect on August 7, the rate for taxi rides between Malé and Hulhumalé will be MVR75 (US$5), it was announced, down from the unofficial MVR100 at present. The rate from Malé to the airport island Hulhulé via the Sinamalé bridge was set at MVR60. The same rate will apply from the airport to the reclaimed island of Hulhumalé.
Abdulla Ibrahim, president of the Taxi Drivers Association, said the group was expecting a rate between MVR80 and MVR90.
“Because that was the sum proposed by the drivers at the meeting held with the transport ministry. But it seems that our proposal has been overlooked,” he told Sun Online.
He also objected to a new rule banning taxis from charging extra for carrying luggage in the boot or cargo compartment. Income would fall drastically as a result, he contended.
“That is why we will seek a court order to stop the enforcement of the new rules,” he said.
Taxi drivers are also planning to stage a protest on Wednesday when the new rates come into force.
Drivers fear the mandatory mobile apps would reduce demand and “open the door” for unregistered vehicles.
“We pay a fee to taxi but the private cars don’t. Car owners are taking cab rides through mobile applications even now. But after this it will increase even more,” a driver told Mihaaru.
About 1,200 taxis are registered to operate in the congested island of Malé.
Deputy Transport Minister Shimaz Ali told Mihaaru on Monday that the new rules and rates would be enforced despite protests and legal challenges.
The petrol cost for a ride from Malé’s southwestern corner to Hulhumalé’s furthest point was found to be MVR11, he noted.
“So MVR75 is not small for such a ride,” he told the newspaper.
The decision to authorise private hire was made because registered taxis are unable to meet the high demand in Malé, he added.
On Thursday, Transport Minister Aishath Nahula said that the decisions were made 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.
The transport ministry previously planned to introduce taxi meters.