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Hailing the cabs

Hailing the cabs

Vandy Rattana

New low-cost meter cabs are now prowling the streets of the Phnom Penh,

and the capital city’s tuk-tuk drivers are running scared.

A

fleet of 12 shiny new taxis was deployed on the streets of Phnom Penh

over the weekend by the Chinese-invested Global Cambodia Trade

Development Co Ltd, even as tuk-tuk drivers complain that they will be

hurt by the competition.

“How do we earn a living?” asked 30-year-old tuk-tuk driver Duch

Sinoeun, as he sat parked along the capital city’s riverside strip

Monday. “It’s going to get harder for us to find customers for our

tuk-tuks.”

Duch Sineoun worried that an influx of air-conditioned meter taxis with

affordable fares would jeopardize his $10-per-day livelihood as a

tuk-tuk driver.

“I am worried,” he said.

Global Cambodia Trade Development CEO Andre Lim said the point was not to compete with other services.

“We just want to provide more choices to people,” Lim said.

A two-kilometer taxi ride cost US$1 and 400 Riels ($0.10) for each 200 meters thereafter, he added.

“I think it is even cheaper than the tuk-tuk fare because we fixed the

price and no one complained.” Lim said. “The city needs development. It

needs new way of transporting people in comfort.”

Under the company’s agreement with city hall inked in November 2007,

Global would deploy 12 more taxis in the next couple of week and would

operate a fleet of 60 vehicles by September 2008, said Lim.

The company has invested $1.5 million in setting up the service and

expected to operate at a loss of $150,000 to $200,000 in the first

year, he said.

Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema told the Post at city hall Monday that

the city strongly supported the new metered taxis. While he

acknowledged the complaints of tuk-tuk drivers, “it’s a free market and

everyone should compete,” he said.

Taxis offer greater advantages to passengers in terms of comfort, he noted, providing greater safety along with lower fares.

But there were other ways in which tuk-tuks could compete with the taxis, he added.

“People will balance which one is better.”

Tuk-tuk driver Chan Sary, 45, said that his tuk-tuk could carry six or

seven people at a time and that he charged 8,000 Riels ($2) for a

two-kilometer ride.

“You can’t get as many people in a car as you can in a tuk-tuk,” Chan Sary said.

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