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Taxis reform launched

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

The taxis reform was launched by Transport Minister Austin Gatt this morning. It focuses on the liberalisation of the sector.

Dr Gatt said that the market for electric taxis has been liberalised and the current operator agreed his exclusive operation should be open.

Turning to white taxis, the minister said that this reform was reached in agreement with the Malta and Gozo taxi associations

It brought about drastic changes in the way the taxis operated so the liberalisation would be a gradual process.

At the moment there were 200 white taxis – the same number there were in the 1960s. This number will increase to 250 by 2012 and in 2015 the government will discuss with the White Taxis Association to see if there is room to further increase the licences.

In Gozo the number of taxis will remain 50 because it this was sufficient for the island’s needs.

Dr Gatt said that in September there will be 20 new licences up for grabs. In January another 20 will be issued and another 20 will be issued in January 2012.

A competitive tender for licences that would cost a minimum of €20,000 per taxi will be issued by Transport Malta. Licenses will not be transferable for five years.

The minister said that the maximum fare will remain as at present but taxis would be able to have adverts enabling them to offer lower fares, creating a competitive market for the consumer.

He said that the fixed fares from the airport and the sea passenger terminal proved popular so three more stands would be added – at St Julian’s, City Gate, and Bugibba.

Dr Gatt said that at the moment there was only one licence - for the taxi. Another two were to be introduced – one for the operator who might not be the taxi driver, and another for the driver.

He said that in an attempt to improve the image of taxi drivers, the reform included a number of criteria for the operator and the driver. People who committed a serious crime, had their licence suspended or were given a hefty fine would not be granted a licence.

New taxi drivers would have to follow courses to learn the routes and roads well and for the first few months they would be accompanied by an experienced and licenced taxe driver. They would be under probation for five years.

The current drivers would be working under a point system with points deducted for breaches. If 200 points were deducted the licence would be suspended for two years.

The taxis themselves would be monitored by CCTV cameras and the footage would be available to the police if a crime report is filed.

Taxis would also be equipped with two emergency buttons, one for the driver and one for the passenger and a GPS system that would allow transport Malta to monitor where the taxis’ movement and position.

A taxi metre would be obligatory and would be monitored remotely so that TM will know exactly when it was switched on. If a taxi operated without a meter, it would be immediately confiscated.

The reform, the minister said, would be implemented gradually, starting in three months time and should be completed within a year.

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