(MENAFN - Arab News) Visitors to Jeddah, particularly domestic tourists, are complaining about the exorbitant rate of fares demanded by cabs in the city.
"The manner with which cabbies are raising their fares is upsetting. During the last school vacation when I visited Jeddah I had to only pay SR 15 for a trip from my apartment in Faisaliah district to the Corniche, whereas during this vacation taxi drivers are demanding up to SR 50 for the same distance," said Umm Wajdan, a visitor from Baha, who came to spend the current school vacation in Jeddah.
"Cab fares are becoming beyond the means of ordinary families," she said.
Some times passengers, especially women, are scared because the cabs take unfrequented roads across desolate districts to bypass congested main roads, a local daily reported yesterday.
City residents without cars and tourists who are accompanied by their families have no choice but to submit to the demands of cab drivers because they have no other convenient mode of transportation available in the city with a population of around four million.
On the other hand an expatriate cab driver, Ali Khan, said he demanded higher fares because of reasons beyond his control.
"My employer is demanding me to pay a minimum of SR 300 every day. I have to buy petrol for SR 20. My daily net income is SR 80. On top of that all I have to pay the additional monthly levy of SR 200. If I demand any higher fare it is because of these compulsions," he said.
Faiz Al-Johani, an aged Saudi, who became a cab driver after retiring from his office job, said he used to lose several hours in traffic bottlenecks caused by the construction works at a number of main streets. "The traffic situation in the city is a serious headache and reduces my income considerably," he said.
Justifying the demand for higher charges, he said, "Cabbies hope to make more money during school vacations by transporting holidaymakers. But congested roads do not allow them to reach their destinations fast and thus makes it harder for them to get other customers. Instead they are wasting their time at traffic snags. This, naturally, prompts them to demand higher fares from passengers."
Chairman of the fairs and rents committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Muhammad Al-Qahtani said one of the reasons for the cabbies' tendency to demand higher fares is because their companies have to pay the new levy imposed by the Ministry of Labor. Only 10 percent of taxi drivers in the Kingdom are Saudis, while companies are only exempted from the levy if they employ at least 50 percent Saudis workers, he said.
"Visa issues and licenses are becoming increasingly difficult and expensive, especially after the introduction of the new levy. A Saudi who runs a limousine company with 25 expatriate drivers, for instance, has to find an additional income of SR 60,000 to pay the levy. How is he expected to meet these additional expenses and make his investment profitable without charging a higher revenue from his cab drivers?" he asked.
The constantly clogged roads in Jeddah thanks to the ongoing construction works are making it very hard for cabs to get enough work, he said.