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A new CNG-hailing app and an old story of transition

  • Published at 10:41 pm January 25th, 2018
A new CNG-hailing app and an old story of transition
CNG autorickshaw owners and drivers have finally caved in and hopped on the smart phone app-based bandwagon. But the digitalization also brings with it the enforcement of state regulations on fare. Uber Technologies Inc launched their service in Dhaka in November 2016. Local companies like SAM, Pathao, Oi Khali, Amar Bike, Chalo and Amar Ride have also been offering motorcycle and car-sharing services for Dhaka commuters for some time. Owners and drivers of CNG autorickshaws say their business has suffered, and they have held many protests and strikes over the last year. Drivers in Dhaka have told the Dhaka Tribune their incomes have fallen by as much as two-thirds. There are over 26,000 autorickshaws in Dhaka and Chittagong. Although the government has a set fare, most autorickshaw drivers charge exorbitant amounts. The friction is nothing new. Taxi owners in Egypt are fighting a battle in court against Uber, and in New York the price of a taxi permit has fallen 50% since the advent of Lyft and Uber. In Johannesburg, taxi drivers petrol-bombed two Uber cars last September. Drivers in Dhaka appear to be planning to join rather than beat the technological wave. But the compromise in the transfer to apps has not been unanimous. Most CNG autorickshaw owners are not signing up with “Hellow” – the app touted as the first to support CNGs. The fare rate used by Hellow is over a decade old, based on the 2007 rates. Dhaka Metropolitan CNG Autorickshaw Owners’ Association President Barkat Ullah Bulu said the rates were most recently hiked in 2015 and that they plan to launch their own app sometime this year, in accordance with government regulations. He said: “If we sign up with Hellow, we will only suffer losses.” The Hellow app will run experimentally from January 16 to February 28 with 500 CNG autorickshaws, according to the app management company Top Idea Implementation. The app will operate in collaboration with Dhaka Autorickshaw Workers’ Union and Dhaka District CNG Autorickshaw Owners Association Oikkya Parishad. “Over the past six months, we have trained 500 CNG run autorickshaw drivers to use the app and the ratings option. Since the new ride-sharing policy does not cover CNG autorickshaws, we will operate the vehicles as per CNG-Petrol-powered Stroke Three Wheeler Service Policy,” said Rokeya Prachi, communications director for Top Ideas Implementation. During the trial run, the company will look into driver’s unwillingness to visit destinations and a fare ceiling, among other issues which may arise and develop solutions. The process will be supervised by the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), traffic police control room, CNG Drivers and Owners Associations’ Cooperation. Shakhawat Hossain Dulal, secretary of Dhaka Autorickshaw Workers’ Union said: “Initially, we have trained 500 drivers. Those willing to join the app will be given training. We will not accept any irregularities in service. We will monitor 24 hours so that our steps are properly implemented.” But the Dhaka Metropolitan CNG Autorickshaw Owners’ Association denied having any knowledge of who these drivers are. Barkat Ullah Bulu said: “We do not know who these drivers are. We do not know where they got the CNGs from. We certainly did not provide Hellow with any of our assets.” Bulu made another demand to the government. He wants CNG autorickshaws to be included in the recently approved draft of Ride-Sharing Services Guideline 2017. The Ride-Sharing Services Guideline 2017 draft allows private companies to run private vehicles, like cars, motorbikes, jeeps, microbuses and ambulances commercially, but currently do not include CNG autorickshaws. Muhammad Showkat Ali, joint secretary, BRTA said: “CNG autorickshaws can be hired through the app as per the policy. According to the policy, the fare for riding first two kilometers will be Tk40, and Tk12 for every next kilometer. Apart from that, passengers will have to pay Tk2 per minute as waiting charge. “We appreciate the step to bring them [CNG autorickshaws] under app-based services. We will provide training to them if they want it. We will also work to validate the driving license of every CNG autorickshaw driver.”
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