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September 15, 2009

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Retired taxis in illegal return

TAXI firms were told to change the appearance of retired cabs to prevent them from being used as illegal taxis after being purchased on the secondhand market.

The Shanghai Traffic Law Enforcement Team caught a man surnamed Shi driving a fake taxi on Friday. Three others were caught driving fake cabs within four days around Shanghai Railway Station.

They bought retired cabs from secondhand dealers. According to the law enforcement team, the problem is that the retired cabs still had the original markings and color of the taxi firms they represented, making it easy for secondhand buyers to use them illegally.

"All they needed to do was install some internal equipment to make the car look real," said taxi watchdogs spokesman Wu Runyuan. "The loophole is obvious."

Taxi companies were asked to put cabs out of service after racking up 300,000 kilometers in mileage to reduce the risk of frequent breakdowns. Some 1,000 taxis are retired each month in the city, the team said.

Taxi companies usually sell the cars on the secondhand market after getting the approval of the city's vehicle management authorities.

The authorities ruled that retired taxis should be sold to other areas of the country instead of within the city.

Secondhand-car markets do not require taxi firms to remove the markings and equipment of retired cabs, giving some the opportunity to put them back in service illegally after buying car plates outside Shanghai.

However, taxi firms are reluctant to change the appearance of retired cabs due to high costs.

Repainting a car costs more than 5,000 yuan (US$732), said Guan Lu, an official of Shanghai Dazhong Taxi Co, the city's biggest taxi firm.

"It never occurred to us before that a taxi would be used in such an illegal way," Guan said.

Guan also said it is easy to buy the internal equipment such as a fare meter, GPS system and defense screen on the black market.


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