Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Taxi? Duh, me
The single biggest obstacle to exporting my motor vehicles yesterday wasn’t the paperwork or the payment. It was transport. I had to get both the bike and the car up to Doha’s industrial area and then pick up a rental car and get to work.
As the container terminal opens at 7am, I set off early, arrived, and dumped the bike. Then I looked for transport back to town to collect my car. Obviously there are no taxis patrolling the grotty, potholed streets of the industrial area at 7:30. I walked a kilometre or so past rows of wrecked cars jostling with new and used excavators to the Jeep workshop, and phoned Karwa for an immediate taxi.
After spending 20 minutes being lied to by a recording about how my call was important, I was advised that: “No taxi available until 12:15.”
How useless is that? The only taxi firm in the country, and every car in the entire fleet is booked solid for nearly five hours. The joys of a monopoly service provider. No, I don’t believe it either.
Eventually, one of the myriad illegal, unmarked, private taxis stopped, and I got rather expensive ride back to town, grabbed my car, and repeated the entire process.
Again, I waited outside the Jeep workshop. This time I was able to flag down an actual official Karwa taxi, with a meter and air conditioning and everything. The driver confirmed that Karwa’s call centre was next to useless, and he was fed up with being berated by customers for being half an hour late when the call centre had only given him the pickup information two minutes previously.
In the ancient olden days, Doha’s taxi fleet consisted of millions of wobbly-wheeled orange-and-white cars, erratically piloted by Afghani shepherds. They were very cheap and, crucially, in plentiful supply. It was virtually impossible to walk anywhere in Doha without being tooted: obviously any pedestrian is in need of a ride. Qatar’s effort to make the place a little more upmarket resulted in all these mobile traffic offences being removed from the roads and replaced by a fleet of shiny new powder-blue Karwa taxis. The trouble is that the overall budget appears to have remained unchanged. Instead of millions of crappy cars, Doha now has a fleet of about nineteen shiny ones.
I have complained to Karwa about the inadequacy of the taxi fleet and the booking system whose effectiveness varies from erratic to non-existent. It’s basically a waste of oxygen, and the only benificiary is Qtel. The best answer I ever received was that more taxis were coming soon. Not that this would help my need for one tomorrow at some obscure hour of the morning. (So early, in fact, that the sparrows wouldn’t have even finished their sprout masala.)
I have basically given up on taxis. A pre-booked car has never, ever arrived on time. When I attempted to book an 6am trip to the airport I was told that no cars were available before 8am. When I tried to book 48 hours in advance I was told to call back tomorrow. I’m renting a car for my last month in Qatar in preference to attempting to use the dysfunctional abomination masquerading as a public transport system.