Language tests for cabs

Taxis in Moscow could shortly be in for a shake-up, as the city government plans to test drivers on their knowledge of the capital’s streets and their c.

Under a new set of proposals from City Hall’s Transport and Communications Department, all taxi drivers would have to have medical certificates as well as at least three years’ experience driving a relevant vehicle.

The department also plans to develop a set of tests that would help taxi operators determine whether the drivers they are hiring have a sufficient command of spoken Russian and can find their way through the city.

The proposals further stipulate that only cars that comply with Euro-2 environmental standards and are equipped with a meter would be permitted to operate as taxis.

Currently the Moscow taxi market is clearly divided between a legitimate segment, represented by authorised operators, and thousands of “gypsy” cabbies.

Intra-city travellers often prefer the latter because their fares are noticeably cheaper than those charged by legitimate drivers.

A large part of the unlicensed taxi market is dominated by impoverished drivers from other former Soviet republics. For many of these gypsies, driving a taxi in the capital is a way to send money back home.

A spokesperson for the city’s Transport and Communications Department told The Moscow News that the proposals are currently being examined by the department’s experts, after which a working document along with amendments will be sent to the city government’s legal department.

The city representative was unable to give a time-frame for the proposals to come into effect.

Licensing grey area

The biggest obstacle in the way of bringing order to the city’s taxi operation, according to the Moscow government, is that under a federal law enacted in 2005, taxi operation is no longer subject to mandatory licensing.

It is not clear, moreover, how the proposed measures would work in a situation when taxi drivers don’t have to apply for licenses.

Similarly, experts are sceptical about the Moscow government’s proposed steps.

“The taxi business is currently developing very chaotically,” Sergei Kanayev, head of the Moscow office of the Russian Car Owners’ Federation, told The Moscow News.

“On the one hand, the existing situation is good for passengers because they have frequent opportunities to catch cheap rides around the city; on the other hand, actual taxi operation is totally disorganized.

“The Moscow government’s proposals are far from what needs to be done,” Kanayev went on to say. “There is a need for real rules of the game that would turn [taxi operation] into a real business.

Today it is not a business, but a free-floating market. And ideas about language tests for taxi drivers and testing for their knowledge of the city should come from not the city government, but from employers.

Taxi companies should be made interested in hiring the right people as taxi drivers,” he concluded.

Source: (   mn.ru news , by Vladimir Kozlov )

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