Gulf Daily News
Manama, Jul 27: Bahrain's taxi drivers say they are losing up to BD15,000 a day between them because expatriates working illegally are stealing all their customers.
Public Transport Drivers Society head Mohammed Al Baboori told the GDN that many cabbies were on the brink of financial ruin and called for a major police crackdown on unlicensed vehicles.
He said illegal taxi drivers were costing genuine drivers up to BD15 a day each in lost fares and unless urgent action was taken the livelihood of around 1,000 Bahrainis was at risk.
"Bahrain is not like Dubai - there are not enough customers to share with all the illegal taxis," said Mr Al Baboori.
"We have no fixed salary and sometimes we earn only BD15 to BD20 a day.
"If we come to the airport we wait for three to four hours for a customer. All drivers are angry about this."
New fares for taxi drivers were introduced at the beginning of the year, allowing them to start their meters at BD1 during the day and BD1.5 overnight - as well as charge different prices for weekends and special pick-ups.
But Mr Al Baboori said the number of illegal drivers, coupled with rising living costs and increased competition from airport limousines, had reduced the benefits.
He also rejected suggestions that taxi drivers were losing trade because they were ripping customers off.
"You cannot say all drivers in Bahrain are bad," he said.
"If any customer has a complaint they should note the driver's licence plate number and report it."
Mr Al Baboori also called for a better deal for drivers, including improved parking facilities, restrooms and taxi station upgrades - saying the government had yet to fulfil promises made last year.
"The government cares for people who come from outside, but they don't seem to care for us and we are Bahrainis," he said.
"People are sitting in taxis all day and there are no covers in many of the stations. Most of the drivers are working 12-hour days from 6am to 6pm. "The government should provide good facilities for us. "We are the face of Bahrain. When people arrive at the airport we are the first people they meet."