Thursday, 10 June 2010

Unauthorized taxis a thorn in the side of Moscow authorities

Moscow authorities have complained that federal legislation prevents them from solving the problem of unauthorised cabs which dominate the city's taxi market.

The regulation “On taxi operation in the city of Moscow”, adopted two years ago, is essentially not working, because under the amendments to federal legislation which took effect in 2005, taxi operation is no longer subject to licensing, Trud newspaper reported.

According to the report, the amendments gave a boost to “the taxi black market”, which is currently estimated to account for three quarters of all of the city’s 40,000 taxis.

City Hall is complaining that unless new amendments are adopted on a federal level, it can do little about unauthorized cabs that attract customers with cheaper fares, while people who take cabs run by unauthorized drivers in most cases don’t seem to care about safety and other issues associated with services that are provided illegitimately.

Even though the number of legitimate taxi operators has increased dramatically over the last few years, most people still prefer flagging down a car to calling a legitimate cab, and reports about crimes committed against passengers by unauthorized cab drivers don’t seem to deter them.

The Moscow authorities have been promising to solve the problem of the taxi black market since the old centralized city system collapsed in the early 1990s and was replaced by operations believed to be largely controlled by organized crime. So far, not much has been achieved.

Head of the Moscow government’s Transport and Communication Department Vasily Kichedzhi told Trud that one possible step to curb illegal taxi operation in the city would be a sharp increase in fines for violating parking rules, which should go up to several thousands of roubles.

But he added that amendments to the federal law would also be vital. “Federal law should stipulate concrete and strict rules,” he said. “Only people over 21 possessing a relevant type of driver’s license should be allowed to drive taxis. All taxis should have a specified colour and be equipped with meters and other equipment allowing control of fares.”

According to Vasily Kichedzhi, a set of proposed amendments to the federal legislation dealing with taxis is to be submitted to the state Duma shortly.

The authorities also drew upon the example of neighbouring Belarus, where under amendments adopted earlier this year illegitimate cab drivers can have their cars confiscated.

Meanwhile, experts say that the issue of illegal cabs is complicated and can’t be solved by means of introducing strict measures.

“The issue cannot be solved by bans alone,” said Sergei Kanayev, head of the Moscow chapter of the Russian Car Owners' Federation.

According to Kanayev, the best way to address the problem would be an open discussion involving all interested parties. “It is important to hear everyone, not just licensed taxi operators,” he said.

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