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Bumpy road for local ride apps

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A PassApp tuk-tuk driver helps a tourist with directions. Heng Chivoan

Bumpy road for local ride apps

Ride-hailing services seem to have grown into a dominant player in the capital’s transportation sector.

Relatively unknown and little used in the Kingdom at the beginning of this year, services like PassApp, Grab and ExNet are now commonplace on Phnom Penh streets.

However, the firms and users of their services have identified some major bumps in the road to customer satisfaction since the apps became a larger part of everyday life.

Lack of driver training and technological hiccups are two of the major complaints from users. But representatives of the companies claim the issues will get sorted out in time.

Tom Booth, a Phnom Penh resident who uses PassApp on a regular basis, gave a mixed review of its service.

“I always use online apps to order to my rides, it is really good and convenient for me and there’s no need to negotiate the price,” he said, adding that ride-hailing apps are changing many people’s daily routine.

However, when the drivers are wholly dependent on [GPS] maps, mistakes can be made, he said.

“Most of the drivers rely a lot on maps . . . [however] some don’t know my location or can’t read maps, so it takes them a long time to reach me.”

Booth noticed issues that he suspected stemmed from a lack of training. They included riders ignoring traffic laws or dealing with customers in an unprofessional manner.

“They mostly don’t respect the traffic lights. My friends used to tell me that some drivers are rude and demanded more money if they suspected customers were unfamiliar with using the app,” he said, adding that the industry is in need of improvement.

Domestic companies have sprung up alongside major international players such as Grab, which entered the Kingdom late last year.

The company launched its motorbike taxi and tuk-tuk services in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap earlier this year.

Local firm PassApp began with a fleet of autorickshaws before expanding to traditional tuk-tuks early this year.

The Post talked with a regular Pass-App user, who gave his name only as Oliver. He had similar complaints about navigation problems.

“Most of the time it is good for me, but sometimes drivers don’t know how to read the GPS map or went towards the wrong direction,” he said.

PassApp drivers who spoke with The Post responded that they faced challenges with the maps due to a lack of training.

Mom Lady, who became a PassApp driver almost four months ago, said that despite gaining customers through the app, the company has not provided any training on traffic rules or safe driving practices.

“I just went to the registration, and the staff only showed me how to use the app and the map,” he said, adding: “They didn’t give us any training about quality of service or traffic laws.”

When asked about traffic issues, Lady said that some drives abused the rules. “I think the company should be concerned about quality rather than increasing the number of PassApp [drivers] or tuk-tuks on the road,” he said.

Som Channy, another driver, complained about technical errors from the app he worked with. “It is hard to follow the map, and if it shows me the wrong direction, I can’t reach the customer on time,” he said.

Representatives from PassApp did not respond to requests for comment on the complaints despite The Post waiting several days.

Ministry of Public Works and Transportation spokesman Va Simsorya said that, based on agreements between the government and ride-hailing firms, the companies have a duty to ensure quality services to the public.

“We will have a look at the quality and talk to the companies considering the complaints. Providing traffic training courses are the companies’ duty. However, if they lack such resources, the ministry could provide it,” he said.

Phon Phallin, administration manager of local ride-hailing app Tos Tov, said there are always challenges, especially errors with online maps.

“No matter if you have a long-running business, the errors often exist. However, we are an online transportation provider and we always try to work out how to make things better,” she said.

Many users found themselves forgiving the minor setbacks, considering travel is now less stressful and cheaper with set rates.

Chhun Rathanat was ecstatic about the benefits ride-hailing apps were bringing her. “I love to ride tuk-tuks through online apps. I have no more concerns about bargaining over price, and it is cheaper than a traditional tuk-tuk,” she said.

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