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Shanghai Targets Unlicensed Cabs in Suburbs
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A Crackdown against "black taxis" in suburban Nanhui District has sent more than 130 formerly unlicensed taxi drivers to join regular taxi companies.

More unlicensed cab drivers may also return to their former taxi companies, as more crackdowns are planned in other suburban areas like Fengxian District.

But some officials with licensed taxi companies believe that many unlicensed cab drivers will try to avoid getting caught. The unlicensed drivers may become more careful when doing illegal business or halt business temporarily until the crackdown ends or slacks off, rather than join their fleet.

The unlicensed drivers resist conforming at a time when oil prices keep rising, narrowing the profit of licensed cabs.

The city's urban transport law enforcement team launched a campaign called Sharp Sword in Nanhui late last month, and more than 310 unlicensed taxis were confiscated on a temporary basis.

Just yesterday, 51 vehicles were caught either for illegal transport business or using fake plates.

But that is only a small number compared with the total number of black cabs in the district - about 2,000, district licensed taxi operators estimated.

Wu Runyuan, spokesman for the Shanghai Urban Transport General Law Enforcement Team, said they are also carrying out an education campaign in schools to persuade students not to take the unlicensed taxis, even though the fare is much lower and negotiable.

They charge only 5 yuan (62 US cents) for the first 3 kilometers, and drivers often are willing to accept lower rates for long trips. The licensed cabs in suburbs charge 8 yuan for the first 3 kilometers and 2 yuan for each additional kilometer.

Yang Jianping, an official with the Nanhui Bashi Taxi Co, said they welcome the unlicensed taxi drivers.

"Actually some of them used to be our men, but they quit after their contract expired to turn to the illegal business, which is more profitable, especially when the oil price has been on the rise these years," said Yang, adding they still have 70 taxis with no drivers to drive.

(Shanghai Daily April 5, 2006)

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