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China Daily Website

Drivers lose out on fee hike

Updated: 2013-07-17 00:50
By JIN HAIXING ( China Daily)

Companies increase their charges for franchising and maintenance

Cabbies in Beijing are complaining that taxi companies have increased fees for drivers — just a month after transport authorities agreed to raise fares.

To address the cab shortage, the city government had promised that taxi drivers would benefit from the fare increase, which took effect on June 10.

After the pricing reform, each driver was to earn an extra 1,400 yuan ($228) a month, according to Beijing's development and reform commission.

However, at least three taxi companies had been punished by the transport commission for raising franchise fees for drivers, which are usually around 5,000 yuan.

The latest was Jiushang Co, which hit 13 drivers looking to renew their taxi rental agreements with a franchise fee that had been increased by 650 yuan.

Another two companies, Longqingxia Co and Tianyun Co, had raised the franchise fee for 78 of their drivers since the end of last year, authorities said.

According to the transport commission's management department, the three companies were required to rectify the problem and return the difference in fares to the drivers.

Other companies have indirectly charged their drivers more, using methods such as altered maintenance or subsidy policies.

Xiang Yuanzhong, a driver for Beijing Xinyue Co, said he was no longer allowed to receive his taxi fuel subsidies in cash. Since April, his company had deposited the subsidies into fuel cards, which means the bonus credits a driver used to earn every time he refueled his taxi now go into the company's pockets.

When Xiang needs to repair his car or have routine car maintenance, he has to go to an automobile maintenance shop owned by his company. He said the prices in those shops had also increased recently.

"My company explained they have no choice but to increase the prices because those shops are losing money," he said.

Xinyue Co refused to comment when contacted by China Daily.

Several drivers in other taxi companies said they had the same problem with maintenance and subsidies, pointing out that they had to maintain and refuel their cars in specific places appointed by their companies.

The transport management department said punishment will be handed out for each case as long as illegal fee-raising operations are reported.

Wang Jiansheng, a veteran cabbie for Beijing Beifang Taxi Co, said it was improper for taxi companies to raise the charges because any pricing change should be determined by government departments.

However, Wang, who had participated in the public hearing for a taxi fare hike in May, also said taxi companies face operational pressures because franchise fees had not been changed since 2006.

Wang said it was very possible that the government will raise the franchise fee in the future.

Beijing has 66,000 taxis — a number that has not changed for a decade — with more than 100,000 taxi drivers working for about 250 taxi companies, according to the Beijing Transport Commission.

Responding to taxi drivers' complaints as well as the difficulty of hailing a cab during rush hour, the city authority increased the starting fare for taxis from 10 yuan to 13 yuan for the first 3 kilometers, effective from June.

The fare for each subsequent kilometer is now 2.3 yuan, up from 2 yuan. When the average speed of the cab drops below a particular threshold in rush hour, the equivalent of an additional 2 km is added every five minutes. Before the change, 1 km was added every five minutes.

Shen Jiahui and Yan Ran contributed to this story.

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