By Vinod Nair — MUSCAT: Jan. 25 – The public transport system in Muscat will undergo major refurbishment this year with the introduction of a new taxi service and an expanded new bus network for the capital. Speaking on the sidelines of the Oman Transport and Logistics Form, Ahmed al Balushi, CEO, Mwasalat, said, as reported earlier, the company will be managing taxi services at Muscat International Airport, malls and commercial centres and on-demand services. “The design (exterior) has been finalised and we are waiting for the final approval from different authorities. We hope to get this approval by early next month,” he said.
Al Balushi said our target is to operate or manage the taxi as soon as we have a final design. “We are planning to have the technology in place by the third or fourth quarters. Once the technology is ready, we will officially take over all operations. We can take over now but it will be same and won’t make a big difference.” The company is currently recruiting the teams and liaising with different agencies such as Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), Ministry of Transport and Communications and Royal Oman Police (ROP). He said the services will be operated involving the existing taxi owners. Response from the cabbies has been generally positive, while some of them have concerns. “We have to face problems in the beginning but they will understand with time.”
With Mwasalat taxis, people can book services much in advance and there will be also a mobile application. As of now, 213 airport taxi drivers have agreed to join the company and around 200 for malls and on-demand.“We plan to secure 350 and 500 taxis by this year and or early next year. Buses: Tenders were launched for 111 buses this year, including 85 for Muscat.“We will announce the routes once we award the tender early next month.” The CEO had earlier told the Observer that the new routes be centered around the main sector, apart from areas servicing educational institutions, universities and colleges, hospitals and malls. Tenders for intelligent technology (for smart cards in buses) will be tendered again, as the earlier one will be expensive.
Considering the profile of our passengers, technology will be applied step by step. Once you have established network. Public transport plan is all over Muscat and once approved, it has to go through the procedures and the Ministry of Finance’s role is important for funding of the project.