An additional 500 yellow-roofed Karwa taxis will be operating in Qatar by October this year in a gradual roll-out that starts with 25 new vehicles hitting the streets today (April 7), an official for Cars Taxi said.
One of the four private franchise firms to run the turquoise taxis in Qatar, Profit Group launched its local service in September 2014, growing to a fleet of 500.
State transport provider Mowasalat has expanded its contract to allow it to double its fleet, adding a further 500 cars over the coming six months, the company’s general manager said.
“We have 25 cars starting today then another 25 (with)in the week. We will expand by 75-100 new taxis every month until we reach 500. It is excellent – Qatar needs more taxis,” Ajith Stephen told Doha News.
The growing Cars Taxi fleet will increase the number of Karwa-branded taxis to 4,500, with a further 500 set to be added as tenders are underway for another private operator to join the ranks.
Mowasalat has previously said it wants to have 7,000 of the turquoise cabs on the street ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
The organization, which runs 1,200 of its own taxis with light-gray roofs, has said it wants to privatize the system and get out of the business of operating taxis to focus solely on its role regulating the industry by 2017.
There are three other private taxi brands in Qatar operating under the Karwa logo: maroon-roofed Al Million, dark gray-roofed Capital Taxis and blue-roofed Al Ijarah.
Over the past 18 months, Mowasalat has introduced several initiatives aimed at improving taxi availability and reliability following numerous complaints from customers about having to wait hours to get a car as well as drivers who either refuse passengers or charge unmetered fares.
In November 2014, Mowasalat launched a unified call center, with one booking number for all the Karwa taxi companies. The company has also launched a mobile app of its own that allows customers to book a taxi using a smartphone.
Tamper-proof meters also began to be fitted in cars to combat complaints of drivers claiming the meter was broken or refusing to switch it on.
Taxi drivers have previously responded by arguing that the rules make it hard for them to make any money during their shift. Many say they have to pay their employer around QR200 a day to rent their cab, which leads them to try to make extra money from passengers just to cover their daily costs.
However, Cars Taxi’s Stephen said all its drivers are paid a salary plus have an incentive scheme to make them extra money.
While the basic salary for some is just over QR1,000, he said others can make significantly more.
“Many of our drivers take home more than QR4,000, up to QR5,000 a month,” he said, adding that staff are provided with free accommodation, laundry and health care.
The company has also been trying to improve the efficiency of its booking service, to cut the amount of time customers have to wait for a car.
“In November 2015 the number of jobs through the call center was about 1,500. Last month, there were 26,000. We are making sure that taxis are available to customers at any point of the day or night,” Stephen added.