In an attempt to fill a gaping hole in Phnom Penh’s transportation sector, a Chinese company announced Wednesday that it will launch a 24-hour metered-taxicab service in the capital Friday.
Global (Cambodia) Trade Development CEO Sovann Lim said Wednesday that his company has a fleet of 60 Chinese-made BYD brand cars, but for Friday’s official launch, which will take place at Chenla Cultural Center, only a dozen white taxis will initially hit the streets of Phnom Penh.
The remainder of the cabs should be fully operational by August or September, he said.
“We want our city to have taxis like other modern cities,” he said, adding that Global Trade has already invested $1 million in the operation.
The company will initially charge passengers $1 for the first 2 km and 400 riel every additional 200 meters, Sovann Lim said.
“The current price offering is really cheap,” he said. “If we charge too much…[customers] would rather ride anything else besides the metered taxis.”
There are currently no metered taxis in Phnom Penh; however, Global Trade is not the first company to make an effort to introduce them.
In August 2007, Vietnamese-owned company Mai Linh Open Tour launched a metered-taxi service with a crew of 11 cars, only to run out of gas after two months.
Kang Heang Ratana, former marketing manager of Mai Linh, said Wednesday that difficulties obtaining licenses from the municipality caused the taxi service to collapse, not a lack of enthusiasm from the public.
Sovann Lim said he did not know why Mai Linh failed, but said his company had the City Hall’s backing and that Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema would attend Friday’s launch.
He added that Global Trade considered the venture a long-term investment, and claimed the service was not only about turning a profit.
“Besides making money, we can do some work for our society,” he said. “They will provide safety, comfort and justice to the passengers because the price is calculated by the meter.”
The nation’s ever-rising gas prices are a concern, but Sovann Lim said that China’s BYD cars get 16 to 20 km to the liter and are considerably more economical than other cars in the city.
“And our cars also have insurance for the passengers, to pay compensation [to passengers] if there are any traffic accidents,” he said.
Marc Vanhemelryck, who started Taxi Vantha in 1995 and now has five non-metered taxis in the city, doubted that Cambodia was ready for a metered-taxi service.
“Some came before, and you see what happened,” he said, adding that people in Phnom Penh would rather take motorcycle taxis.
Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun declined to comment on the new metered-taxi service.