Temporary ban on ride-sharing apps in Pokhara amid legal uncertainty

Kathmandu: The operation of ride-sharing services through mobile apps has been abruptly halted in Pokhara, Kaski, following a public notice issued by the Transport Management Office, Kaski, on Friday. The notice mandates an immediate cessation of passenger transportation via ride-sharing platforms and warns of legal consequences for violators.

Dilliram Rijal, chief of the Transport Office Pokhara, cited unauthorized operations of ride-sharing services by private vehicles as the reason behind the ban. He emphasized that strict enforcement actions would be taken under the Motor Vehicle and Transport Management Act against those continuing to offer ride-sharing services without authorization.

While the Vehicle and Transport Regulations of 2080 BS provide a framework for legalizing ride-sharing services in Gandaki Province, the necessary regulatory procedures have not yet been established. These regulations stipulate requirements such as passenger insurance and adherence to prescribed procedures for both two-wheelers and four-wheelers with private registration certificates.

Despite the popularity of ride-sharing apps like Pathao, Tootle, Sahara, InDrive, Easy, Taximandu, and Cab Taxi in Pokhara, they currently operate outside the bounds of legal recognition in Gandaki Province. Private vehicles involved in these services are accused of setting fares independently through their respective apps, which contravenes established transport laws.

Rijal highlighted the need for clear standards and procedures before granting authorization to private vehicles for ride-sharing services. He acknowledged the demand for legalizing ride-sharing to protect passengers from exploitation and improve public transport services in the region.

Kedar Paudel, coordinator of the Federation of Transport Professionals, Gandaki Province, supported the call for regulation, emphasizing that formalizing ride-sharing services would ensure compliance with safety and operational standards. He questioned the necessity of traditional public transport services if private vehicles can independently transport passengers via app-based platforms.

The debate over the legalization of ride-sharing services in Pokhara underscores the regulatory challenges faced in adapting to evolving transportation technologies while maintaining public safety and service standards.