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Phone bookings for taxis

By XU WEI  (China Daily)

09:03, April 26, 2013

Beijing launches new policy to ease the city's cab shortage problem

Each taxi driver in Beijing should complete at least two jobs booked over the phone each day, according to a new regulation that will start from June.

The move comes as authorities push for solutions to the city's taxi shortage.

Passengers in the six major urban districts will be able to call a dedicated number for taxis between 7 am and 7 pm, while those within the fourth ring road will be able to do so during other periods, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport said on Wednesday.

People older than 65 will be the priority group of the service, the committee said.

As of Thursday, 10 of the larger taxi companies in Beijing had announced that they will jointly enforce the regulation in June and provide a phone booking service.

The companies said the service will also be used as a criterion to assess taxi drivers, and special teams will be assessed to ensure the service is provided.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport said earlier this month that passengers in the city will be guaranteed a 99 percent chance of booking a taxi four hours in advance, and a joint telephone booking number will be announced before June as part of the initiative.

Booking a taxi over the phone could mean an extra charge of 3 yuan. The commission said that 2 yuan from the extra charge will go to the driver.

The regulation states that taxi drivers should contact the passengers once a booking has been made, arrive punctually and wait at least 10 minutes for the passenger.

Taxi drivers who refuse to take the order will be given an administrative penalty, and further breaches could result in a suspension of their license and a five-year ban.

Meanwhile, passengers who have failed to meet the driver more than twice without notifying the call center or taxi driver will be blacklisted and refused permission to use the service for a year.

Passengers will also be informed if the service is not available or could be delayed should there be heavy rains or traffic jams, for example. Penalties will also be given to taxi companies who fail to supervise their drivers' service or assess their performance.

Dou Keying, a taxi driver who already takes most of his jobs through phone calls, said taking two orders each day is not a big issue to him.

But he believes there should be specific items in the regulation to make sure it is enforceable, such as matching the location of the driver and the passenger.

"I certainly do not want to drive 10 km to take a passenger who is only traveling 3 km. That's why I like working on the airport route, which is longer distance," Dou said.

Meanwhile, the blacklist system of passengers must be based on identities rather than phone numbers.

"What if the person dials from a different telephone number? In that case the punishment will be virtually non-existent," Dou said.

These revisions are being carried out as part of a series of measures by the city's transport authority to address the difficulty of hailing a taxi in the capital, particularly during rush hour.

The city's economic planning body is also holding a hearing on taxi-fare adjustments as a price hike is on the cards.

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