Transport: Taxi drivers in Trashigang say that private vehicles are eating into their pockets by carrying passengers at cheaper fares.

They claim that about 30 private vehicles, mostly bolero campers, are operating commercially to carry people to and fro various gewogs in the dzongkhag.

Taxi drivers wrote to Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) about a year ago, but this illegal practice is still rampant.  Tshewang, leader of Trashigang’s taxi tshogpa, said the number of private vehicles operating like taxis is increasing by the year.

“Some of these drivers are even seen at the taxi parking looking for passengers. Recently, we came across two such vehicles,” said Tshewang. “What’s worrying is that the private vehicles that operate like taxi carry passengers beyond capacity.”

Tashi Wangyel, a taxi driver, said that, at times, taxi drivers don’t get even a single passenger the whole day. “Private vehicles operating as taxi are all over the place.”

Choki Tshering, another taxi driver, said private vehicles charge less fares and people prefer them to taxis. “It’s a strange competition we’re facing today.”

RSTA officials said that it was difficult to monitor because passengers don’t tell the truth.

“As long as vehicles are carrying the allowed capacity of passengers, they aren’t violating the law. We can’t impose penalties unless we have definite evidences against the driver,” said an RSTA official.

According to RSTA rules, private vehicles operating as a commercial vehicles will be slapped a Nu 1750 fine.

RSTA has only two officials to monitor such cases in Trashigang.

People say that the taxi fares in Trashigang are too high.  For instance, to travel from town to Melphey costs Nu 150, and Nu 300 to go to Pam, which is about 5km from Trashigang town.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang