Malcolm Ciantar, CEO of Malta Taxi, has described new measures that prohibit ride-hailing drivers from accepting passengers when situated close to a taxi stand as “a good change that will cut down on abuse.”

Malta Taxi is the operator of Malta’s white taxis, which are the only transport solution legally allowed to use the name ‘taxi’.

Speaking to BusinessNow.mt, Mr Ciantar is evidently pleased with Transport Malta’s implementation of geofencing on ride-hailing operators.

On Tuesday, the regulator informed Malta’s three ride-hailing apps – Bolt, eCabs and Uber – that they must block their drivers from accepting rides when they are within 250m of certain taxi stands – such as those at the airport and near the Gozo ferry – or within 100m of any other of Malta’s 70-plus taxi stands.

“We feel good with the current measures,” says Mr Ciantar. “It’s not that ride-hailing drivers can’t operate next to taxi stands – so it is actually less stringent than it is in some other countries.”

He says that in many cities, ride-hailing drivers cannot even pick up passengers within a certain distance of taxi stands: “Passengers need to walk themselves over to the cab, instead of having the cab come to them.”

Effectively, then, the geofencing measures introduced in Malta are not as limiting as some of those introduced abroad.

“If a cab drops off passengers close to a taxi stand, it can’t stay there waiting for your next ride. It simply cannot be on standby at taxi stands. And that’s because that is our job. That is what taxis do – the walk-in, standby business. The ride-hailing business is different.”

Mr Ciantar says that certain locations – most especially at Ċirkewwa, Mdina and outside the Phoenicia, Floriana – are especially subject to having ride-hailing drivers wait at taxi stands and call out to people to get a ride with them.

“They are stealing our work. Simple as that. It has to stop,” he says.

The new geofencing system, then, “will cut down on abuse,” says the Malta Taxi CEO. “This way, the law is enforced automatically, without the need for Transport Malta officials to come and waste time enforcing, fining people.”

Asked whether Malta Taxi will be lobbying to ban ride-hailing cabs from even picking up passengers nearby to taxi stands, he said there is “no need”: “As long as this new system works, it is not a problem for us if they come for clients close to our stands.

“But leave the stands to us.”

But are the white taxis ready to step up to the plate? After all, their reputation for overcharging and dangerous driving is not entirely undeserved.

“We are changing,” affirms Mr Ciantar. “We have been under new management for almost three years now. Complaints have decreased a lot. At the airport, we even issue fines and suspend our own drivers if they do not follow the dress code.”

White taxi drivers now need to present a police conduct and undergo training by the operator as well as by Transport Malta.

“Slowly slowly, we are changing our image. Standards have improved – a lot. We are not the white taxis of old.”

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