The cost of catching a taxi in Qatar could go up to offset the 30 percent hike in petrol prices that took effect over the weekend, franchise operators have said.
On Thursday afternoon, Qatar’s state fuel company Woqod issued a memo to all petrol stations across the country to increase prices to QR1.3 for super grade and QR1.15 for premium.
The increase was implemented within hours and pushed prices up between 30 and 35 percent overnight.
It also brought Qatar in line with other GCC nations that recently raised fuel rates in response to falling global oil prices and reduced government spending.
Taxi operators are saying they are already starting to feel the squeeze as their daily costs rise.
But only state-run transportation company Mowasalat, which regulates Karwa taxi fares, has the authority to introduce a new tariff.
Speaking to Doha News today, a Mowasalat spokesman said that the organization has not made any official decision yet to increase the fares.
However, Cars Taxis, which operates one of the Karwa taxi franchises, said it is investigating the full impact of the increased petrol prices and will be submitting a report to Mowasalat this week.
“The new petrol prices means that our costs will go up – there is no doubt about that. But we need to know what exactly the impact will be, if it will be significant for us or less so.
We are writing a report at the moment and will submit that to Mowasalat in the next few days,” Ajith Stephen, country general manager of Profit Group, which runs Cars Taxi, said.
Relative to many countries, Qatar’s taxis are still pretty affordable and are relied upon by hundreds of thousands of residents who don’t have their own transport, especially during evenings and on weekends.
The minimum fare is QR10, with a rate of QR1.2/km inside Doha or QR1.8/km outside the city’s limits in the daytime. Evening fares rise to QR1.8/km.
Karwa limousines have a QR15 minimum fee, while airport taxis have a QR25 starting pick-up charge.
The last time Mowasalat increased its rates was in 2011, when it fixed minimum fares to QR10, and increased airport fares to QR25.
The move, which came months after the last time Qatar hiked fuel prices in January 2011, drew criticism particularly from customers who only traveled short distances.
If Qatar did increase its taxi tariff, it would follow neighboring city Dubai, where fares rose in December for the second time in 12 months.
But raising prices would likely not sit well with many customers in Qatar, who already complain of taxi drivers’ rude behavior and attempts to overcharge them.
To counter some of these issues, Mowasalat has been installing tamper-proof meters in its 4,000-strong fleet of Karwa-branded taxis.
But if the state company does increase fares, that move would likely undo any goodwill it has recently garnered among customers, and perhaps drive them to competitors Uber and Careem.
Meanwhile, some residents have speculated that the higher petrol prices could lead to the start of changes in daily behavior among motorists, as higher electricity prices did with individuals and companies in the fall.
Some suggested that people would consider buying more fuel-efficient vehicles and drive less, which could improve the state’s poor air quality.
.@dohanews this will result in improvement in air quality in this country
— Justin D. Martin | جاستن مارتن (@Justin_D_Martin) January 15, 2016
Will the new petrol prices change your driving habits? Thoughts?