Metered Cab Service Begins Operating Within Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh now has what most cities take for granted: a metered taxi service.

Eleven green sedans comprising Mai Linh Open Tour’s new taxi fleet began to circulate Phnom Penh’s streets Aug 9, said Kang Heang Ratana, marketing manager for the Vietnamese-own­ed company.

“This is a new service for our city,” he said Aug 15, adding that his company, which had previously only rented vehicles, has invested $99,000 in the expansion.

The taxis charge a flat fee of $1.50 for the first 2 km traveled, he said. Each additional kilometer costs $0.80, although that rate is cut in half after 25 km, he added.

“Whenever the wheels move, we charge a fee. It is a standard taxi service,” Kang Heang Ratana said, adding that all of the company’s drivers will be trained and insured.

The new service may find it difficult to compete with “tuk-tuk” and motorbike taxis, said Marc Van­hemelryeck, who started Taxi Vantha in 1996. His company’s taxis had meters in the 1990s, he said, but stopped using them when recalibrations for riel inflation became too much of a hassle.

But he said the real problem with four-wheeled taxis is that they don’t make enough money.

“Metered taxis are a good thing to have in the city, but a competitive service won’t be able to cover costs,” he said, adding that finding English-speaking drivers is very difficult but important considering the service’s likely clientele.

But some tuk-tuk drivers think the new taxi service will be viable. “If they charge customers only $1.50 for the first 2 km, it will kill our business,” Ouk Kim Heng, who has driven a tuk-tuk in Phnom Penh for the last two years, said Wed­nesday. Tuk-tuk drivers should create a union to protect themselves, he suggested.

Ung Chun Hour, director-general of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s General Directo­rate of Transport, said the price of taxis should be set higher than their competition.

“Travel by taxi is safer, but cheap taxis would kill the tuk-tuk and motorbike taxi services,” he said, adding that he will suggest price-setting to Phnom Penh Mun­ici­pality officials as a remedy to the problem.


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