A delegation from the Faculty of Business of Sohar University took part in the 3rd International Association of Public Transport (UITP) MENA Congress & 1st UITP Taxi Conference in Abu Dhabi. The conference was attended by more than 80 regional and international public transport experts for three days and attracted around 600 sector delegates and 400 organisations. Dr. Rakesh Belwal, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Business was invited as a speaker along with the co-author Ali Murad Al Balushi. Among other invitees were Maryam Al Amri and Abdullah Al Quraini, who were the part of the global Youth for Public Transport (Y4PT) delegation. The event was organized by the Department of Transport (DoT) in close partnership with UITP.
“Although public transport is not very visible in Oman, there are some significant developments in the area of public transport here”, said Dr. Belwal, who has recently completed a research project on public transport in Oman funded by The Research Council of Oman (TRC). “People’s perceptions of public transport are changing but there exist some expectation gap between providers and users”, added Dr. Belwal. Hailing the recent initiatives of Oman Airports Management Company for regulating airport taxis, he commented that “As a first step, taxi operations in Oman need to be regulated to build people’s confidence in public transport services and to reduce their dependence on personal cars”.
His paper emphasized the need for regulation and organization of transport involving government bodies and transport operators. Speaking at the 1st UITP Taxi Conference he stressed that confidence building among taxi drivers is a must to make them an integral part of broader PT system. Dr. Belwal suggested that benchmarking industrial practices; designing of taxi and PT infrastructure, adoption of adequate regulatory base and methods, R&D work, technology orientation, and training of drivers; legal support and enactments concerning Taxi Services; record keeping of taxi operations; and establishment of Taxi Carriers information database for better service and support were all needed.
During a meeting with H.E. Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Ohaly, UITP- MENA Chairman and Deputy Minister for Transport, KSA; Abdulla Naser, Head, UITP-MENA; Abdulla Al Zari, DG, Sharjah Transport; and Abdulaziz Malik, Advisor, RTA Dubai, he had a discussion on the recent UITP-RTA initiative of establishing a ‘Center of Excellence’ for Public Transport Research for the MENA region. “We are currently exploring the opportunity to effectively liaise with them and also with the Ministry of Transport of Oman. Sohar University is optimistic about signing a MOU with this Center of Excellence in the near future in order to boost our research and the possibilities for regulation”, said Dr. Belwal.
Dr. Abood Al Sawafi, Vice Chancellor of Sohar University, Prof. Lance Bode, Director of Research and Industry Collaboration, and Professor Stephen Hill, Dean of Business Faculty congratulated the delegation for contributing successfully to the conference.