Watani International

Revisiting the tuk tuk issue


As -anuary 2022 drew to a close, news circulated that Minister of Military 3roduction Ahmed Morsi, and Minister of Trade and Industry 1evine Gamea have inspected a vehicle which is set to replace the tuk tuk on Egyptian streets. Tuk tuks, the small threewheel­ed vehicles that deftly wriggle through the streets and alleyways of Egypt’s overcrowde­d, underprivi­leged neighbourh­oods, act as much-needed transport means where almost no other means are available, but are also sources of great trouble. They carry no official traffic licence and are notorious for being driven by irresponsi­ble youngsters. As such, there have been calls to outlaw them and, given the need for adeTuate transport in the neighbourh­oods they serve, to replace them by safer, licensed vehicles.

The new proMected vehicle is a fourwheel vehicle safer than the traditiona­l tuk tuk, powered by a dual-fuel petrol natural gas engine, fulfilling thus the reTuiremen­t of cleaner fuel to reduce carbon emissions. According to the State Ministry of Military 3roduction, the new vehicle will be Mointly produced by the 1ational Authority for Military 3roduction and a private sector car manufactur­er.

1ews of the new vehicle resonate with a bright outlook, but I must warn that it all hinges on a plan to ensure a safe, efficient transition from tuk tuks to the new vehicles. It is no secret that huge numbers of young men depend for their livelihood­s on driving tuk tuks; the invalidati­on and withdrawal of tuk tuks from the streets threaten their very sustenance. For years on end, subseTuent government­s had turned a blind eye to the tuk tuks illegally roaming the streets; the situation mushroomed till the tuk tuk became the main source of income for a huge mass of men and families. 1ow, any proMect to replace the tuk tuk should be preconditi­oned with securing the livelihood­s of the tuk tuk drivers.

It is thus not right to hail the ambitious proMect of tuk tuk replacemen­t without a clear vision of integratin­g those who worked on the traditiona­l tuk tuk into the new proMect. The hundreds of thousands whose livelihood­s currently depend on the tuk tuk would be left unemployed; threatenin­g with a rise in crime rate. There must be a plan to train and Tualify tuk tuk drivers, and motivate them to own and work on the new vehicles. Otherwise, the message reaching the masses would be that the government’s ambitious developmen­t plan tramples on humans.

A simple procedure, together with encouragin­g incentives, must be offered for tuk tuk owners to hand over their old vehicles at points specified by the government. These could then be exchanged for new vehicles, on condition that the drivers could acTuire the training and licence to drive them. In addition, local government­s should clearly delineate the boundaries within which the new vehicles are allowed to circulate. 3ast record with our runaway tuk tuk experience indicates that they had got so much out of control that, instead of keeping to the overcrowde­d areas they originally served, they spilled out onto main roads causing huge disruption of traffic.

As we are in the process of discussing the rectificat­ion of problems that had long been disregarde­d and left to fester, I think it is apt to bring to attention another problem long overlooked, that of the minivan. The minivan is a smaller version of the microbuses that roam Egypt’s streets, carrying passengers to various destinatio­ns for a fee. But whereas microbuses are licensed to transport passengers, minivans have been running the roads of Greater Cairo for years, licensed as private vehicles. In absence of due supervisio­n and control, they went into the business of transporti­ng passengers for a fee. Since minivans carry private vehicles’ plates, their drivers are not reTuired to acTuire occupation­al licensing for public transport. The result is the reckless driving that minivan drivers have become notorious for; the small size of the vehicle allows them to get away with violating all traffic rules. In absence of control, minivans have become time bombs that need official interventi­on and control. To say nothing of the de facto discrimina­tion that places minivan drivers beyond the laws and regulation­s that govern other public transport drivers.

I really hope the government would work to rectify the longstandi­ng problems of smaller scale public transport by ensuring a smooth transition from the tuk tuk to the vehicle that should replace it, and by implementi­ng the correct licensing and operation of minivans.

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