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Hard times for taxi operators

Mantoetse Maama

MASERU — Long distance taxi operators are smarting from competition by bus operators who charge far less fares for the same distances.

The taxi operators are complaining that the new taxi fares implemented in October last year have badly eroded their profit margins.

They said since they have to compete with operators of buses and bigger pas­senger vans that can seat 30 or more passengers they are forced to reduce the set fares in order to lure passengers.
The transporters told the Sunday Ex­press that this had caused conflicts amongst them.

Maboloka Taxi Association clerk, ‘Ma­pelaelo Letšoara, said the new taxi fares have affected their transport business badly as they are often forced to reduce fares to attract passengers.

“There is a huge difference between fares charged by the buses and taxis. There is usually a difference of up to M15 and most people prefer buses over taxis and Quantum mini-buses.
“Since the new taxi fares were imple­mented, we have been operating at a loss as taxi operators. People opt for buses and sprinters as their fares are cheaper,” Letšoara said.

“Our taxis take a long time to get com­muters from the platform. We only sur­vive because we go on ‘gap’ (picking com­muters in the streets) but still this does not guarantee that the taxi will fill up,” she said.
She said they plead with the minister of transport to revise the current fares so that the operators won’t suffer.

Motinyane Motinyane, the treasur­er for another taxi association Ipopeng Makaota, said the prices were not fairly al­located.

“In the past the difference used to be about M5 only but the current taxi fares by up to M15. Most people prefer bus­es and sprinters as they do not see the advantage of commuting taxis that charge more.
“Most operators depend on this business as their source of income after they were retrenched from the mines. Allowing mini-bus commuters to pay the bus fare is ille­gal but we have no other alternative.”
Thato Seeiso said this had created ten­sion among bus operators.

“In the past they used to work together as buses and taxi operators. When fares differed in a way that would make another group suffer we would agree on specific fare so that we would all benefit.
“Currently we have tried to negoti­ate with those who own buses and taxis but they refused to entertain us,” Seeiso said.

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