Amid ongoing complaints about the service and availability of taxis in Qatar, the state transportation company Mowasalat has announced plans to launch a new, unified call center to take bookings for all the Karwa franchises.
Once the center is fully operational by the end of the year, customers will be able to call a single, toll-free number, 800TAXI (8008294) to book their transportation from a fleet of 4,000 cars, based on their location.
The goal is to provide “faster and better” service to clients, a Mowasalat official has said. This would be accomplished by having all four private companies that operate turquoise taxis on Qatar’s streets, as well as Mowasalat-run vehicles, available for service.
All Karwa taxis will be fitted with GPS to track their location, and customers would be sent the nearest available car, the Peninsula reports.
Because the new system is still in the testing phase, franchises that currently operate their own bookings system will keep their individual phone numbers for a short while longer. But eventually, all Karwa taxis will have to use the single number.
Under the new fully integrated system, customers will likely not have a choice between cars from different companies, which raises a question about how the franchises will distinguish themselves.
However, according to a Mowasalat official, “It does not matter which company the taxi belongs to. The purpose of the center is to provide faster and better service to the customers.”
There are currently four private companies that have franchises to operate taxi services in Qatar.
In addition to the 1,200 light gray-roofed cars run by state-operated Mowasalat, maroon-roofed Al Million and blue-roofed Al Ijarah taxis collectively operate roughly 1,800 cars.
In September, Dubai-based Cars Taxis announced it had joined forces with Profit to run the yellow-topped vehicles, while last month Capital Taxis, operated by Ibin Ajayan Group, became the fourth franchisee with its dark gray-roofed taxis.
These last two firms have said they will each roll out 500 additional taxis onto the streets before the end of this year, bringing the total number of Karwa taxis in Qatar to 4,000.
At the time of its launch, Ibin Ajayan’s consultant CEO Ravi Pillai told Gulf Times that the taxis would distinguish themselves from the competition by providing better customer service.
“Almost 100 percent of our taxi drivers have previous experience in the GCC states, including Qatar and they are extremely familiar with the road conditions in the region, in particular in the country,” he said.
Earlier this year, Qatar’s transport minister announced that the Karwa taxi service would be entirely privatized by 2017, with a further two companies planned to come on board to run the taxis, while Mowasalat withdraws to operate solely as regulator.
Poor customer service and unreliability are among the main criticisms of Qatar’s taxi service voiced by customers.
At the moment, residents can choose to book cars through a particular firm, which incentivizes companies to focus on improving their service. It is not known if this might change under the new system.
However, the General Manager of Cars Taxis told Doha News that he welcomed the unified bookings system, saying it would improve efficiency for the companies, as drivers would have to spend less time touring the city and touting for business.
Ajith Stephen said: “This new system is good news for everyone. It is great for the customers – they will get a taxi quicker – and it is great for us.
“Currently, our drivers can use up half their kilometers driving around looking for customers. Now this will be reduced, as they will be called and told to go to the nearest customer. They will become more efficient.”
Meanwhile, an adviser to the Ministry of Transport has warned that residents should prepare for “three to four years” of congestion on Qatar’s roads while the infrastructure is overhauled.
Speaking at the seventh annual Bridges and Highways Middle East conference in Doha yesterday, surface transport adviser Abdul Ghaffar A H Chaudhry said traffic snarls during the works were inevitable, but that ultimately the new roads would help to ease congestion, Gulf Times reports.
In its latest annual report, public works authority Ashghal announced it plans to start 14 new roads projects next year as part of its Expressway Program. Many of these involve extensive construction to key routes through central Doha.