The Minister of Information and Communication confirmed no new taxi driver license will be issued in Thimphu and Phuentsholing city. A study conducted by the ministry to look at possibilities to raise the number of taxis found there were 3,822 in operation out of 5,185 registered in October 2013. The minister justified that although the total number of taxi in the country decreased by 20.8% in 2014, it has exceeded demand of the population in Thimphu and Phuentsholing. In addition, the decision helps to reduce air pollutions and enhance the public transport safety.
Also the new regulation implemented in January this year ensures taxi drivers have to have a professional driving license. The minister said Gangjung Driving Centre would be licensed to train the taxi drivers.
The discussion came on the floor in the summer session of the lower house on May 19th, when Bumdeling-Jamkhar representative Duptho raised concerns pertaining to government’s decision of not allowing import of vehicles to be used as taxis. The Member of Parliament (MP) said that not issuing the license directly contradicted to Article 7 of the Constitution that defines every citizen has a fundamental right to practice any lawful trade or profession.
He also raised a question about the use of imported vehicles. Despite the commitment made by Prime Minister about a year ago in accordance with an appeal from the Taxi Association, the ministry, as of now, has not implemented the promise to allow on import of new taxi vehicles as a replacement for taxis that completes nine years on the road. “Families whose only income source is being a taxi driver are facing difficulties,” the MP said.He pointed out the heavy duty put on fuel vehicles is forcing taxi drivers to use only electric vehicles (EVs) as their cars.
“The taxi tenure is over in nine years. Those who are willing to purchase a new car can buy either a fuel car or an electric car. We don’t compel them to buy EVs”, the minister answered.
The ministry had increased the legal lifespan of vehicles used as a taxi from eight years to nine years in 2013. According to the minister there are 130 taxis whose lifespan will be completed by this year and the most of others in operation now by 2019-2021.
Thimphu region saw 2,707 taxis as of December 2014 compared to 3,508 in 2013. Phuentsholing region has 1,192 in 2014 decreased from 1,475 in 2013. Whereas, in Gelephu the number was increased to 156 from 149 and in Samdrup Jhongkhar from 54 to 59.
The average growth rate of a number of vehicles in Bhutan is at 11%. The number reached to 69,602 as of December 2014 compared to 67,926 in 2013. Some 52.9% of total vehicles are registered in Thimphu region, 36.2% in Phuentsholing region, 5.9% in Samdrup Jhongkhar region, 4.9% in Gelephu region and 0.1% in newly established Mongar region.