The Ministry of Transport is seriously considering bringing about major policy changes not only to encourage people to use public transport but also streamline various modes of transportation available in the Kingdom.
The Undersecretary for Transport Affairs, Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Ohali, speaking at a workshop to highlight the ministry's objectives and functioning, said the initiatives essentially pertained to two major policy changes that would rein in violators as also increase use of public transport system. "These moves are still in the initial stages, and the actual implementation would come after completion of the studies undertaken by the ministry," he said.
"We realize that to encourage people to use public transport, there is need for two policy changes. Firstly, there has to be an incentive through low pricing of tickets as also introducing long-term tickets. And the second move would be to disallow buses from entering certain areas which would automatically encourage use of public transport. This practice is prevalent in some countries," Dr. Al-Ohali said.
Explaining this practice in other countries, he said there are fixed rates for entry into certain areas, higher prices for entry into some places and total ban on entry in specified areas. "This has been implemented in the case of Haram Square in Makkah, which led to people using the tube as an alternate means of transportation, and it has been readily accepted," he said, adding that the implementation would be gradual and in a phased manner since it really was a social change that will have to be accepted by the people.
In the case of the private taxi sector, fares have been fixed and traffic movement will be based on passenger feedback, he said, adding that certain measures were being taken to minimize violations. The ministry also intended to make installation of GPS system mandatory in taxis. He, however, refuted contentions that vehicles with GPS would be available only on call and will not be allowed on the roads to pick up fares.
Dr. Al-Ohali said the Transport Ministry was also considering strict measures to monitor transportation of hazardous material between cities. The project design for public transport in Dammam had also been finalized and it was expected to be completed within 18 months.
Similar workshops were also held in Riyadh, Dammam and Abha where the use of technology in management of fleets was highlighted. "We have also been trying to establish a rapport between service providers and investors and to encourage use of technology. We have received good response from the shipping industry.
Some transport companies have evinced keen interest in applying the tracking technology," he said.