All OK with Taxi OK? Bangkok Modernizes Cab Fleet

Originally published on Channel NewsAsia on January 24, 2018

Bangkok's taxis currently don't have the best reputation and are also under pressure by Uber, Grab and Co. That's why Thai officials want to modernize the roughly 100.000 colorful cabs and make them more passenger-friendly. But not every cabbie is happy about the changes.

TRANSCRIPT

Sporting all the colours of the rainbow, taxis once ruled the streets of Bangkok.

But in recent years, locals and tourists alike have been complaining: Overcharging, rejecting customers, reckless driving... it’s pushing many away to use Grab and Uber.

In order to restore the somewhat tarnished reputation of Bangkok’s taxis, Thai officials have introduced a new set of rules, not only to make taxi rides more safe, more transparent, technologically up to date - but also to catch up with private ride-hailing services like Grab and Uber. But not every cabbie in the city is on board with the changes.

Thailand’s Department of Land Transportation is about to launch "Taxi OK", both a smartphone app for customers AND a scheme to upgrade Bangkok taxis.

But to join the programme, taxis have to install new equipment: GPS trackers, security cameras, an emergency button… and so on.

For some drivers though these technical upgrades are too expensive.

SADIS JAITIANG; President Thai Public Taxi Association:
"But for us independent taxi drivers, the new rules don’t work for us! 'Taxi OK' creates a bigger burden for us. We have no problem with the electronic payment system for example - but we have a problem with the additional equipment like the GPS, because of the additional costs."

Costs the taxi association says run up to more than $900, plus monthly service fees. 

But Thai officials say no one has to buy such expensive equipment and has also filed a court injunction against the new rules.

CHERDCHAI SANANSRISAKORN; Deputy Director-General Department of Land Transport:
"The Department of Land Transport has not specified what model or brand they should use - we only have set the technological standards. There are many models and brands they can let us approve and over time, price should not be a problem soon."

About 7,000 taxis have joined the upgrade scheme, but every one will eventually have to meet the new rules, no matter what. 

And with that, Thai authorities hope to see Bangkok taxis rule the roads once again.

Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok