Shafaat Ahmed (KT Exclusive) www.khaleejtimes.com
DUBAI — Cheaper public transport, the economic downturn and higher costs have contributed to a dip in demand for driving licences in recent months, Khaleej Times has learnt.
Inquiries have fallen and residents from lower income groups now prefer public transport like the Dubai Metro, according to the RTA.
“We’ve noticed a slight decrease in the number of inquiries and footfalls in the institutes in the last few months, but we still don’t have the exact numbers,” said Ahmed Hashem Bahrozyan, CEO of RTA’s Licensing Agency, in an interview with Khaleej Times.
“It seems the credit crunch and the launch of cheaper and convenient modes of transport like Dubai Metro have brought about the decline. Some people from low income groups who used to get licences before, seem to have realised that public transport is a cheaper alternative,” he added.
The official said figures for the first quarter of the year would be available soon, but maintained that the trend was towards public transport.
“Normally people who are already in the driver training system will continue the process. Now that the Metro is here and the downturn is affecting budgets, those who have not yet entered the process will think twice before applying for a driving licence.”
An applicant who had to wait between four to eight weeks to start classes can now begin lessons immediately in the changed scenario, said the official. “Earlier, institutes were struggling to cater to growing demand even after raising capacity. The demand has gone down and the capacity is still the same.”
When asked if costs and tougher tests were putting off applicants, Bahrozyan said it certainly was one of the reasons. “Obtaining a licence in Dubai is not very cheap, but earlier people didn’t have a choice; they had to go for it.”
The Metro and an improved bus system were luring more people away from cars, he said.
RTA, he said, was happy with the ‘positive development’ as it was part of the authority’s agenda to encourage more people to use public transport.
“For us, it’s important to be fair with people. A customer has paid the money and he has to get a fair chance, so the fairness is there in the tests. We have no agenda to fail applicants.’’
He admitted the pass rate was low and said this was due to bad driving habits carried over from home countries and poor adaptability to driving conditions in Dubai.
The RTA was working on a unified curriculum to improve the pass rate, which had already shown an improvement last year, he said.