The city of Phnom Penh on Tuesday concluded a 20-year agreement to bring 300 metered taxis to its streets over the next five years.
The announcement is the second attempt in recent months to introduce a form of transportation already common in most regional capitals.
Presiding over a signing ceremony at City Hall with the Chinese firm Global (Cambodia) Trade Development Co, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said he expected 60 taxis to be operating in the capital by early next year.
Under the terms of the deal, the company is to invest a total of $6 million in its taxi fleet, said Kep Chuktema, adding that he believed the company would provide a high quality service. “People care about safety and comfort,” he said.
Hu Guang Xi, president of Global Trade, said his company hoped to employ as many as 1,000 people and felt that serving Phnom Penh was an enticing prospect.
“Our company is very confident in doing business in Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that the cabs are to charge $0.50 per kilometer. “We hope it is a fair price for citizens,” he said.
Without revealing the model of taxi to be introduced, Hu Guang Xi said they will help improve air quality in the capital, as they will meet strict emissions standards.
A City Hall official familiar with the deal but who declined to be named said that Global Trade, and another company yet to be selected, will have exclusive rights to operate metered taxis within the capital, with the exception of Phnom Penh International Airport.
Service from the airport will continue to be handled exclusively by a pool of around 80 vehicles already part of a “taxi association” managed by the municipal public works department, the official said. The metered cabs, however, will be allowed to drop passengers off at the airport, the official added.
In August, the Vietnamese-owned Mai Linh Open Tour company unveiled a fleet of 11 metered taxis but the company has since ceased operations.
Kang Heang Ratana, marketing manager for Mai Linh, which also operates regional bus services, said the taxi service was halted due to bureaucratic reasons.
“The metered taxi was delayed due to not having an official contract,” he said, adding that his company still hopes to sign a contract with the city. “The company is preparing the paperwork,” he said.
Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said that a metered taxi service would be a valuable service for visitors to Phnom Penh.
However, the scarce number of tourists in the capital during the rainy months and high fuel prices may make it hard to turn a profit, he said. Currently many tourists find motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks a difficult way of traveling from place to place, he said. “Tourists, once they need to get free of the group [tour], they want to be individuals but it’s very hard to pick up a taxi,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)