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December 5, 2011

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Cab impounded? Get a new one

MEASURES to crack down on illegal taxis are proving ineffective as rather than pay a penalty to reclaim impounded cars, bogus cabbies just buy another vehicle, watchdogs said yesterday.

This leaves the city with the headache of paying to keep impounded cars that no one wants, said the Shanghai Traffic Law Enforcement Team.

To tackle this, the authority said it will get tough with illegal taxi owners next year.

"For the sake of fairness and concerns over budget control, we'll take a more aggressive stance toward punishments with the rights the laws endorse," said Cai Jingyan, deputy chief with the team.

The team said it will hunt down illegal operators until fines are paid.

Late fees are expected to be imposed too.

Less than 5 percent of the illegal drivers pay fines, despite more "black cabs" being seized in a continued crackdown this year, said Cai. The team has impounded 451 illegal cabs, according to the team.

Owners must pay a fine of up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,856) to get their confiscated vehicles back.

However they usually just buy another car - often a former taxi for about 20,000 yuan - and add fake equipment, such as a rooftop light and car plate, to make it resemble a genuine taxi.

The total cost is about 30,000 yuan, said officials.

"The outlay will soon be made up once the new car hits the road," explained an official.

Last year the situation was no better. Of 332 vehicles confiscated only 11 were reclaimed.

Some drivers even ripped up punishment notices in front of officials.

At the same time, the authorities said that the storage fees for impounded cars reach millions of yuan a year.

Usually, unclaimed cars are destroyed - though this usually takes six months and involves lots of paperwork, officials said. "Selling scrap steel from the vehicles doesn't even cover storage costs," said official Wu Runyuan.


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