Amman-Irbid service taxi drivers hike fares in violation of rules

Passengers and drivers are both frustrated by economic challenges

Cars and buses line up at Al-Shamal Transport Complex to ferry passengers from Amman to the Kingdom’s northern region. (Photo: Jordan News)
Cars and buses line up at Al-Shamal Transport Complex to ferry passengers from Amman to the Kingdom’s northern region. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Service taxis shuttling between Amman and Irbid have raised their prices in an attempt to make up for the loss of income due to capacity restrictions. But passengers aren’t happy about the change.اضافة اعلان

The passenger capacity has been raised from 50 to 75 percent as one of the government measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on economic sectors, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. Still, taxi drivers are only able to carry three passengers where they used to be able to carry four, cutting into their profits amid a time of economic difficulty.

Fadi Ahmad, a passenger who commutes regularly between Irbid and Amman, told Jordan News that he is no longer taking shared taxis because they charge high fares and the drivers violate regulations by carrying four passengers.

“Like many others in Irbid, I have switched to private cars (from taxis). Two to three passengers arrange a ride with someone who goes regularly to Amman, meet with the driver at a scheduled time and place, and pay him an agreed-upon fee,” Ahmad said.

“This way is cheaper and faster than shared taxis,” he added, stopping short of mentioning that the practice is prohibited under the law, as private cars cannot be used as taxis.

However on the other hand, taxi drivers have expressed concerns about loss of income and the challenges of putting food on the table during the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Mutasem Mohammad, a shared taxi driver working on Amman-Irbid route, said in an interview with Jordan News that drivers “can hardly live and barely breathe” in such severe circumstances.

“Spending most of our income on gasoline, we cannot afford basic food needs,” he said.

“Drivers are trying to offset the losses caused by the lower passenger capacity given that the determined public transport fares are disproportionate with the distances between cities,” a shared taxi driver based in Irbid, who preferred to be anonymous, told Jordan News over the phone.

“When we ask passengers for more, they are usually reluctant to pay; however, some of them do not mind to pay extra JD0.5 to be at work on time,” the driver said.

Not only Amman-Irbid shared taxi drivers have been affected by the limited passenger load. Khalil Thabet, a service taxi driver working in Al Qweismeh, told Jordan News that the restriction has negatively affected his income.

“When working at full capacity, the daily income of a taxi driver is divided into two portions, 50 percent of which is for gasoline and maintenance, and the other half is shared between the driver and owner,” explained Thabet. “Thus, the absence of the fourth passenger led to a decrease in drivers’ earnings.”

President of the Transport Services and Taxi Owners Union, Ahmad Abu Haidar, said in an interview with Jordan News that the Land Transport Regulatory Commission (LTRC) is the responsible agency for the drivers’ price raises.

With the rise of gasoline prices, Abu Haidar urged the government to increase public transport fares and allow shared taxis to operate at 100 percent capacity. He noted that drivers “are suffering financial losses”, especially as the pandemic and its resulting restrictions have gone on for over a year. Several experts have also recently predicted price hikes on basic consumer goods in Jordan due to rising global shipping prices, which may present further financial challenges to these drivers and other citizens.

The daily losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic stood at half a million Jordanian dinars, according to the union’s president.

Abla Weshah, spokesperson of the LTRC, said that the commission is considering passengers’ complaints in a comment to Jordan News. He stressed that both the commission and the travel department are monitoring public transport and will take legal actions against those who violated the regulating legislations.

Weshah called for shared taxi drivers to stand by the standard determined fare and the passenger capacity as regulated by the relevant defense order.

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