Just over 140 metered taxicabs wheel the streets of Phnom Penh today, catering to an increasingly diverse group of passengers.
But by the end of June, Cambodia’s two biggest taxi companies will have more than 200 yellow and white cabs on the capital’s boul-evards in what some have called a slow phasing-out of Cambodia’s long-standing transportation traditions: tuk tuks, moto dops and the occ-asional cyclo.
The number of cabs could double within three years.
“We’re going to push tuk tuks out of town,” Kong Sarath, a manager at Phnom Penh’s Choice Meter Taxi, said yesterday.
“In the next few years, business and investment will continue to grow here. This is good for the taxi business. Businessmen ride in taxis.”
Korean-owned Choice, which has 70 cabs, would add about 30 taxis next month and planned to have a fleet of 200 by 2015, Kong Sarath said.
Only four years ago, visitors to Cambodia either rented private cars or moved around in open-aired modes of transport. Global Meter Taxi opened in 2008, followed a year later by Choice.
Andre Lim, chief executive and general manager of Chinese-owned Global, said his company would add 28 cabs to its 72-strong fleet this month. Within the next two years, he hopes to have 170 cabs on the road.
Motos and tuk tuks were less and less competitive compared to taxis, Lim said.
“At the moment, the price of tuk tuks is not cheap. So in the future, it will be difficult for them to find customers. More people will take taxis,” he said.
Pho Samnamg, 27, said that during his two years as a driver at Global, the customer base had changed from businesspeople and airport arrivals to average Cambodians.
“People think taxi fares are high, but actually they’re nearly the same as tuk tuks,” Pho Samnang said.
Global fares begin at US$1 and $0.69 for additional kilometres. Tuk tuk rides often cost passengers $2, although there is no standard charge.
Tuk tuk drivers on the streets of Phnom Penh yester-day offered a gloomy vis-ion for their future.
The increase in cabs has impacted on tuk tuk drivers’ wallets, particularly during the hot season, which pushed the mercury past a humid 33 degrees Celsius yesterday.
“At the moment, its too hot and people switch to taxis, which are air-condit-ioned,” 31-year-old Pak Phanith, a tuk tuk driver who was parked near the NagaWorld Casino yesterday, said.
Pak Phanith has other worries as well. Gas prices continued to force him to raise his fares, and he has heard rumours of government plans to rid the increasingly crowded streets of tuk tuks.
Yit Bunna, under-secre-tary of state at the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works, but not speaking on behalf of the ministry, says safety and pollution concerns will promote the use of taxis.
“I believe taxis and buses will replace tuk tuks,” Yit Bunna said yesterday.