Yangyel Lhaden  

Two regular commuters to the Royal Thimphu College (RTC) from lower Changzamtog got the shock of their lives earlier this week when the taxi drivers charged them Nu 300 each when they usually paid total fare between Nu 250 and Nu 300. They reluctantly paid.

Road Safety Transport and Authority (RSTA) taxi fare rate between the places is Nu 60 per person.  

More commuters are complaining of exorbitant taxi fares owing to the hike in fuel prices.  The latest fuel price hiked petrol price by almost Nu 5. A litre of petrol in Lungtenzampa costs Nu 97 and a litre of diesel is now Nu 111.88.

Another resident, Karma Dorji commutes daily between Langjopakha and Changangkha. He said that with the increase in taxi fare almost one-fifth of his salary is spent on taxi fares. “Before the hike in fuel price taxi fare was between Nu 100 and Nu 120. With the increase in fuel price, it is Nu 160.”

He said that he was worried the taxi fare would further increase with yet another hike in fuel price.

RSTA’s Deputy Chief Programme Officer, Ugyen Norbu said that taxi drivers were not allowed to charge more than the fixed taxi fare rate by the authority. He said that the commuters have to  inform RSTA if they are charged extra. “A support from the public is needed to curb the issue because with limited human resources it is challenging for the us to monitor.”

Ugyen Norbu said that people should have adequate evidence to prove they were over charged such as vehicles registration number and proof of fare charge. “We interrogate both the driver and complainant to verify.”

He said that if a taxi driver has overcharged, he is made to pay excess charge to customer and he has to pay Nu 1,000 fine to RSTA.

However, many are unaware of taxi fare fixed by RSTA and claim different fares.

Dechen Wangmo travelled from Phuentsholing to Thimphu in an electric taxi. She paid Nu 850. When she returned from Thimphu to Phuentsholing in a fossil taxi she was charged Nu 1,000.

She said that she was unaware of taxi fare charge fixed by RSTA.

RSTA’s total taxi fare for Thimphu to Phuentsholing is Nu 3,762. The total rate is divided among passengers. For a four-seater car, the fare for a passenger is Nu 941.

Dechen Wangmo said that RSTA should advocate more on the taxi fare rates and paste on taxi stands.

Ugyen Norbu said that whenever there was fare revision, the department uploads them in various social media platforms. “We also carry routine awareness programmes targeting all groups of people.”

Transportation fare

RSTA revises the transportation rate bi-annually— once in six months. According to their latest revision on February, in Thimphu the local charge per kilometre is Nu 24.

He said that taxi driver should not charge extra when there is increase in hike in fuel price. “We analyse six months data for the revision and there were times when price of fuel was high when fare was revised and in following months price of fuel dropped which benefitted the taxi drivers.”

Ugyen Norbu said that RSTA used the best model for fare revision so that both taxi drivers and customers are benefitted. “Price of fuel is only one component. We analyse data based on three major components; capital expenses, fixed cost, and variables.”

Ugyen Norbu said that electric vehicle was new in the country and there was no adequate data to make a separate fare charge.