NEWS

Pirate Taxis Here To Stay?

Pirate or illegal taxis are not going away soon despite all the talks and efforts to stop them. Fiji Sun investigations have revealed that they have become an integral part
16 May 2016 13:21
Pirate Taxis Here To Stay?
An illegal taxi which was also taking passengers at Nadi Taxi stand yesterday. Photo:Litia Tikomailepanoni

Pirate or illegal taxis are not going away soon despite all the talks and efforts to stop them.

Fiji Sun investigations have revealed that they have become an integral part of the transport system because they provide a cheaper and efficient service.

Public demand is high because they:

Are readily available

Operate at odd hours, round the clock

Offer cheaper fare

 Are not fussy about where they go. Some taxis will not take short trips because they say they are uneconomical.

 Do not refuse any passengers. Some taxis do for safety reasons.

Use newer and better cars

The only drawback  is that they don’t pay tax and the Government is losing a substantial amount of money due to lost revenue.

Taxi drivers interviewed in the North, West and Central Division say this is daylight robbery because pirate taxis take a big chunk of their business. They have called for immediate action from the authorities.

Land Transport Authority (LTA) chief executive officer Naisa Tuinaceva said: “We are working with Fiji Police Force to address this issue.

“LTA has seized more than 80 private vehicles operating as illegal taxis this year and Nadi Town recorded the highest number of private vehicles illegally operating as taxis,” he said.

Mr Tuinaceva said a lack of taxi service was the main cause of the increase in private vehicles providing illegal taxi services on our roads.

“I appeal to the taxi operators that they must provide the service to the public,” he said.

He has warned the illegal private car owners that LTA will not tolerate this any longer.

“If they continue to use their private cars for illegal taxi operations, LTA may consider deregistering their vehicles. It is wrong, dangerous and peoples’ lives are at risk,” he said.

“We also advise members of the public to refrain using illegal taxis.”

Suva

A Suva taxi driver, Mohammed Jannif, 50, said: “I often take passengers from Suva to Lami and notice that taxis will be at their base while people mostly prefer travelling in illegal taxis.

“At times I would stop for a passenger near Fisheries Department in Lami and they always prefer illegal taxis,” he said.

Piccadilly Taxis driver Imtiyaaz Khan, 36, said: “There is an increase in illegal taxis for the past two years. This affects our business a lot. We are not able to reach our target at times,” he said.

Mr Khan said there were lots of people catching illegal taxis.

“It is a concern for us taxi drivers because they seem to be replacing us,” he said.

“Sometimes the illegal taxi drivers argue with us and will not allow us to carry any passengers.

“It’s not the fault of the taxi drivers because we charge passengers on the taxi meter and sometimes  they don’t want to pay the full amount,” he said.

Another Suva taxi driver Farhan Ali, 30, said: “It’s wrong that taxi drivers do not provide services during the night time.

“We do provide service during the night time but people prefer travelling in the illegal taxis.

“Also some passengers prefer taxi drivers to drive at a very high speed,” he said.

Mr Ali said: “We cannot overspeed to let the passengers reach their destination fast. We have road safety rules to follow and avoid road accidents. This is another reason why most of the people prefer travelling in illegal taxis.”

Mr Ali said sometimes he has to wait for long to take the job.

Sweet Angle Taxi’s Limited taxi driver Samuel Lal said: “I am badly affected. I have been driving taxis for 25 years and in the past few years there is an increase in illegal taxis.”

Mr Lal said illegal taxis were everywhere.

“We are not able to earn much and meet our target,” he said.

Nabua based taxi driver Navinesh Krishna, 31, said: “Something must be done to stop the increase in the number of illegal taxis.

“I wake up early to provide service to earn for my living. Our jobs are taken away by illegal taxis.”

Mr Lal said people preferred illegal taxis and now some taxi drivers are going for other jobs.

Frequent taxi patron, 32-year-old Shirley Devi of Martintar in Nadi yesterday said: “I sometimes get on private cars that are on offer and they don’t complain about the distance or places we are going, especially the road conditions like some of these taxi drivers.

“At night they can also go to these places that most of these legal taxis complain about.”

Another user Atunaisa Takayawa concurred and said: “Usually I travel in a bus but most of the time after clubbing I prefer taxis and they just don’t want to take us so what can we do, it’s either an illegal private car or sleep here until the next morning.”

Lautoka

A Lautoka taxi driver, Vishal Ratnam, 26, said, “People are opting to hire private vehicles over taxis because they charge a bit less than what the taxi meter reading would be for the same distance.

“Some people also prefer to travel in private vehicles as they agree to drive the passengers to any location they choose.”

Labasa

Fiji Taxi Association secretary Labasa branch branch Jumit Sharma said until laws were strengthened to discourage people from operating illegal transport services, the issue would continue to affect legal taxi businesses.

“Our drivers are losing more than 70 per cent in income every day and all of them are asking me the same question-is it fair for us to be paying base fees, licence fees and to meet all the stringent Land Transport Authority requirements?”  Mr Sharma said.

Nadi

Taxi 2000 owner Aslam Khan says it has really affected his business in terms of income.

“I have rents and bills to pay and the wages of the drivers to think of; with these illegal operations my business has really been affected.”

Taxi Driver Ram Pratap or Babu as he is commonly known by his customers (passengers) operates at the taxi stand in Nadi Town and says, “This has been an ongoing problem; we have complained to LTA, Police and even to the town council; nothing seems to stop them from operating.

“It’s been thirty years I have been operating here and when we tell some of these drivers that they are not supposed to be operating here, they say we do not own this place,” he said.

Edited by Rusiate Mataika

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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