A statement on Zugdidi protest against JSC Metro Georgia - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

A statement on Zugdidi protest against JSC Metro Georgia

19 February, 2016


Metro Georgia, a company running long-distance bus lines from Zugdidi, had to cancel its scheduled Zugdidi-Tbilisi trips due to a 5 day protest organized by local bus and minibus drivers. The protesters demanded Metro Georgia not be allowed to engage in passenger transportation, since they would not be able to compete with higher standards of passenger service the company planned to offer.

Metro Georgia was registered as a limited liability company in 2012, and later changed to a joint stock company in 2014. The company board is composed of two Georgian citizens, Robert Ferdman and Mikheil Doborjginidze, and a Turkish citizen Onur Tanriverdi.

Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) interviewed one of the directors of Metro Georgia Mikheil Doborjginidze, according to whom, the company had signed a franchise agreement with a Turkish international transport company Metro, and that a Zugdidi-based company Metro + registered in 2015 had, in turn, signed a similar agreement with Metro Georgia.

According to Doborjginidze, Metro + had acquired 7 buses through leasing from Metro Georgia, and committed to providing passengers with high quality services based on Metro standards.

The protest of bus and minibus drivers in Zugdidi lasted 5 days. The protesters blocked the local bus station, the location used by Metro Georgia to transport passengers.

TI Georgia also interviewed the lawyer of Avtosadguri Ltd. Jita Gulua, according to whom, on January 20, 2016, her client had signed an agreement with Metro +, according to which, Metro + rented 54 square meters of space from Avtosadguri to be used for parking buses and picking up passengers. Gulua claims that the director of Avtosadguri Ira Nadaraia had not informed the company shareholders about the Metro + agreement and its conditions prior to signing, which caused a conflict between her and the shareholders. According Gulua, the shareholders are planning to hold a meeting in the near future, after which the director Ira Nadaraia plans to resign.

On February 3, 2016, Avtosadguri unilaterally terminated its agreement with Metro +, leaving the latter unable to make use of the rented space. According to Jita Gulua, a fine of GEL 2,000 will be imposed on Avtosadguri for unilateral terminating agreement, as stipulated in the contract.

TI Georgia also interviewed one of the protest organizers Besik Taktakishvili, who stated that the drivers working at the bus station would not allowed Metro or any other company to enter the local market. According to Taktakishvili, local drivers are planning to improve the quality of service and increase the number of passengers.

During the protest, Metro + attempted to launch two bus trips, however, on February 1, the protesting drivers threw eggs at the vehicles. The drivers also made turkophobic statements during the protest, resulting in 10 of them being arrested by the police.

The director of Metro Georgia Mikheill Doborjginidze stated that the company will unquestionably start operating in Zugdidi. Even though they are no longer authorized to use the space owned by Avtosadguri, the company is looking for alternatives and plans to re-launch Zugdidi-Tbilisi bus lines in the near future. According to Doborjginidze, Metro Georgia plans to employ legal measures for achieving its goals and solving possible future problems.

Passenger transport companies are required to follow regulations set by the August 18, 2011 Order of the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development as well as the Law on Road Traffic. Both documents outline the rules for safe transportation of passengers and their luggage, and obligate passenger transport companies to provide high quality service. However, the documents do not provide for any mechanisms of inspection, meaning that the regulations are rarely enforced, despite instances of road accidents being caused by the use of faulty and substandard transport vehicles.

Transparency International Georgia believes that any action that is aimed at pushing out a new company from a free market and/or violating the rights of existing transport companies through illegal intervention must not be left without response from the investigative authorities. We believe that the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not put enough effort into preventing tension and interference with the activities of Metro Georgia.

The appearance of a new transport company in Zugdidi is a positive step in terms of bolstering healthy competition. Therefore, we believe that neither the new company nor any existing companies on the passenger transportation market should face problems in their business activities.

We call on relevant law enforcement agencies to prevent all possible illegal actions that hinder business activities of private companies.

In addition, a mechanism for inspecting passenger transport companies must be introduced, in order to minimize the number of road accidents caused by malfunctioning vehicles.

We would like to thank LivePress for providing us with the above photo material

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