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November 16, 2011

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Cloned cab seizures up by one third

SEIZURES of "cloned cabs" are up almost a third so far this year, compared to all of 2010, the local taxi watchdog said yesterday.

The city traffic law enforcement teams said it had seized 438 cloned cabs - cars made to look like licensed taxis by adding roof lights and meters - so far in 2011, compared to 333 for all of last year.

Cloned cab drivers often scam passengers, especially out-of-towners, officials said. The team returned stolen roof lights and meters to local taxi fleets yesterday.

Shanghai traffic authorities recently estimated that there are 5,000 cloned cabs on the city's streets - one in 10 of taxis touting for trade.

Illegal operators must pay a fine of up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,875) to get back their impounded cars, officials said.

"However, in most cases they don't come to pay the fines," said Chen Zhaohui, a team official.

"They prefer to buy another cheap second-hand car and use that."

Impounded cars are destroyed if unclaimed, to ensure they don't end up in underground markets, authorities said.

Officials have also dealt with licensed cabbies tampering with meters. In one recent crackdown, outside Longyang Road Metro station in Pudong, team members followed a cab to a downtown hotel and carried out a spot check.

They discovered the driver was using a tampered meter which recorded a 15-kilometer trip as 55 kilometers and charged 200 yuan, officials said.

To further crack down on scams, traffic authorities said licensed taxis will be equipped with electronic tags that allow instant identification.

The tag has already been installed in more than 2,000 local taxis.

Residents with tip-offs about illegal cabs can earn a 500-yuan reward from the city's taxi industry association. They should call 6535-3930.


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