Friday, December 13

Kuching taxi operators in a fix

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KUCHING: Taxi operators here are caught in a conundrum following conflicting information from government agencies over the permitted number of passengers they can carry in executive taxis (ETs).

The source of the dilemma is a letter dated Jan 16 and signed by the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Broad (CVLB) state director Mohamad Anuardi Bin Hajani.

The letter stated that Toyota Innova vehicles which are utilised as ETs will only have a licensed capacity of five individuals, including the driver.

A taxi operator who did not wish to be identified told thesundaypost that this differed from what they were told during a meeting earlier this month with state CVLB chairman Hasbi Habibollah.

“According to the terms of our existing permits, we are allowed to carry six passengers, not inclusive of drivers. But during the meeting, we were told that the capacity is five passengers.

“Imagine our shock when we found out today (yesterday) of this new requirement when we received photostated copies of the letter.

“What we want to know now is, which is the right one (requirement) to follow and when will it take effect?” he asked.

“We would also like to question why there was no meeting with our representatives and the various agencies to highlight the contents of this letter. We need someone to stand up on our behalf so that the the reality of our situation is known.”

The taxi operator voiced his opinion that it would not be financially viable to restrict ETs to four passengers.

“We support the efforts to project a more professional image of local taxi services. That is why some of us invested in Toyota Innovas.

“However, they are more expensive to operate and maintain than other types of vehicles used as taxis. Not only that, we are already constrained by the limit of 10 years imposed on our vehicles’ roadworthiness, as well as the widespread problem of illegal taxis.

“With this additional restriction, we might as well not bother to upgrade to ETs and just operate budget taxis,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, taxi operators here alleged that illegal van sapu from a neighbouring country were severely affecting their business operations at a private medical center here.

During a press conference organised by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) to highlight problems faced by taxi operators, taxi operators present told reporters that there were at least 120 `van sapu’ (illegal taxis) ferrying patients across the border to the medical centre and back.

The taxi operators also alleged that the private medical center had given letters authorising the van sapu operators to carry their patients and family members from across the border to the center, and paid them commission to do so.

Also present during the press conference was Persatuan Teksi Bumi Kenyalang Bahagian Kuching chairman Philip Ayan who reiterated their appeal to the government to extend the age limit of roadworthy taxis to 18 years old, from the present 15, to follow the standards set in Sabah.

For ETs, he requested that the age be raise to 15 years up from the current 10 years.

Earlier, Wanita PKR vice president Voon Shiak Ni, who was present at the press conference with several members of their Stampin branch, told reporters that there were many issues directly affecting the drivers, many of which had not been sufficiently addressed by the government.

She pointed out that although there were many reported instances of taxi operators robbing their passengers, what was not highlighted as much were that the taxi drivers themselves were also vulnerable to the rising rate of crime in the city.

“We also have to hear the other side of the story, they also have their hardships and sufferings which they have to weather through being taxi operators.

“We sincerely call on the government to be more sensitive toward these taxi operators which constitute one of the important professions in the community,” she urged.