Black taxi rates may follow licensed cabs

15:16, November 25, 2009      

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Unlicensed taxi drivers might raise their rates to match the 1 yuan increase in licensed cabs, following a jump in gasoline prices two weeks ago.

"I am considering an increase in my charge because of the price hike in gasoline," said an unlicensed taxi driver surnamed Xia.

Xia told METRO yesterday he plans to charge 15 yuan for a former 10-yuan ride.

"Before the price increases I could drive 200 km with 100 yuan, but now I can only drive 180 km," he said.

However, he also admitted that not all unlicensed taxi drivers are planning to raise their prices.

"Because we don't have meters, the fares are usually agreed between drivers and customers," he said.

According to the Beijing transport law enforcement corps, taxi passengers who take a ride longer than 3 km will need to pay an extra 1 yuan per journey starting today.

The move aims to ease the burden of taxi drivers after the price of No 93 gasoline hit a record 6.66 yuan per liter on Nov 10.

"With the gasoline price hike, it will be more difficult for us to make a profit," said another unlicensed driver who declined to be named.

He explained that unlike registered taxis that can stop and pick up customers anywhere, they can only drive their customers to the destination for fear of being caught by the police.

"We are not 'stealing' customers from registered taxis. In most cases we take passengers who can't find a regular taxi or have already been refused," he said.

Under the current law, private cars are not allowed to offer commercial services.

Some qualified taxi drivers are angry with their unlicensed competition. Qin Liping, a driver for Xinyue Taxi Company, said unlicensed taxis often ask for unfairly high prices.

Qin said: "For a 13 km distance it costs less than 30 yuan by a regular taxi. Unlicensed taxis usually ask for 35 yuan."

Asked about the price increase in unlicensed taxis, Qin said he believed the unlicensed taxi metering is "messy".

A man surnamed Zhang who occasionally takes unlicensed taxis said he hasn't notice an increase in fares yet.

Zhang told METRO he took them because they were usually more convenient.

"You need to bargain if you think they ask for too much money," he said.

"Their prices are very flexible; they ask for more money when it snows," Zhang added.

However an anonymous official from Beijing transport law enforcement corps said: "The price hikes are not unreasonable but more importantly what is they are doing is completely illegal."

He said his department continues to crack down on unlicensed taxis, but refused to reveal how many have been caught recently.

Unlicensed taxi drivers can be fined up to half a million yuan and have their cars confiscated if caught.

It was reported by earlier this year that Beijing has 66,000 registered taxis and 70,000 unlicensed taxis.

Dong Laichao, from the committee of public management and transportation law at Beijing Bar Association, told the Beijing Morning Post yesterday that the massive number of unlicensed taxis in Beijing stems from a lack in public transport in rural areas around the city.

"The government should improve the public transport system and extend the hours they function," he said.

Source:China Daily
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