While the fuel price has dropped once again this year, passengers commuting through taxis in Thimphu are unhappy with taxi drivers charging a higher fare than the one that the Road Safety and Transport Authority’s (RSTA) set in October this year.

Due to an increase in fuel price and other operating costs in the past, RSTA had increased the bus and taxi fare.

Fares for passenger bus was increased by Nu 0.08 – 0.15 for both local and long distance, while fares for taxi service went up by Nu 2 for both long and local distance.

However, the price in the fuel has decreased once again this month. According to a press release from Department of Trade, the price in petrol and diesel were reduced from the midnight of October 31 and came into effect from midnight of November 1.

Now the price for a litre of petrol is reduced by Nu 4.38- Nu 4.46 and for diesel per litre by Nu 1.51- Nu 1.53.

In Thimphu the petrol price is at Nu 68.6 and Nu 71.33 for a litre of diesel.

An employee working in Thimphu said that the taxi drivers complied with the change in fare when the fare is increased and not when it is decreased. “When I stayed at Taba, the fare was about Nu 30 a person and later when RSTA decreased the fare, a taxi driver charged me the same fare. When I argued about the rate, he said the fare keeps changing and taxi drivers can’t keep changing the fare. I wanted to complain but then I thought it was just Nu 10 or so.”

According to the revised RSTA fare, those travelling from the city centre parking to Taba in a four-seated vehicle are required to pay Nu 23. The taxi drivers charge Nu 35 or Nu 40. Similarly, for those travelling to Babesa from the city centre parking, the taxis charge Nu 50 a person, which according to the RSTA’s revised fare is Nu 32 per person.

While many remained unaware of the revised RSTA local fares, those who knew complained of non-compliance by the taxi drivers.

A student at one of the schools in Thimphu said taxi drivers do not charge the fare as per the RSTA’s revised fare. “If RSTA could revise the fares as per the fuel price and monitor, it can benefit the low income people.”

When the taxi and bus fares were revised this year, the RSTA officials said operating cost includes fuel price, cost of vehicles, drivers’ salary and maintenance cost, among others.

Passengers had little complaint on the fares charged for long distance, concerns were raised on the fares charged for local travels.

A taxi driver at Thimphu said that today those travelling to Paro  are charged Nu 250 and Nu 750 for those travelling to Phuenstsholing. The revised RSTA fare for those travelling to Paro is Nu 243 and for those travelling to Phuentsholing is Nu 770.

Another taxi driver said that he had known about the rise in the fare through Bhutan Broadcasting Service and other media outlets. He added that the taxi association of Bhutan had also informed of the revision. “They didn’t get into the specifics but we were informed about the fares.”

He added that the taxi drivers charging different fares were those new to the service. “Keeping aside the fuel price, when the rate is increased or decreased, I follow it accordingly. No matter how much we earn, it is spent on maintenance.”

Those driving a taxi within Thimphu earns a maximum of Nu 2,000 a day, he said.

“Monthly, it would be about Nu 30,000 and this goes for rent, maintenance, and fuel. We have to do maintenance at least once a week because we travel long distance and the vehicle is damaged,” he said. “Until you get into this profession, no one will understand the struggle we have.”

Graduates at the national graduate orientation programme had also raised concerns regarding the lack of uniformity in the taxi fare and taxi drivers charging higher rates last year.

To which, the former information and communications minister DN Dungyel had said that the passengers must try and report to RSTA with the name of the driver and the vehicle number when they are overcharged.

Phurpa Lhamo