Transportation Ministry frustrated with taxi bill

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Transportation Ministry frustrated with taxi bill

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs yesterday expressed “frustration” over legislators’ agreement to designate taxis as public transportation, pointing to a massive fiscal burden on the government.

“So far, the government has vigorously expressed opinions opposed to denoting taxis as public transportation because it would create confusion in the current public transportation policies and place excessive burdens on the central and local governments,” the statement said.

“So the ministry arranged comprehensive measures to support taxi drivers and even proposed a special law on it.

“But the bill on public transportation has eventually been passed,” the statement continued. “The ministry can’t avoid expressing frustration and disappointment about it.”

Despite strong protests from the government and bus industry, both ruling and opposition lawmakers passed a bill reclassifying taxis as public transportation early yesterday morning, which will offer more state subsidies to cabbies.

Under the new law, the taxi industry is expected to receive about 1.9 trillion won ($1.78 billion) in government support, including fuel subsidies and tax reductions.

All of the facilities and garages regarding taxis will be designated as public facilities, maintained with a state budget.

Taxi drivers will also be able to use bus-only lanes in the middle of the roads in some regions of Seoul, Gyeonggi and Gwangju.

The Association of Korea Bus Transport Companies, a nationwide association of bus company owners, also said, “We feel very sorry for the politicians’ decision to railroad the bill, even though they knew that would unleash strong protests from the government and bus company owners.”

However, the association said they won’t stage a nationwide strike because of the new law. They had a plan to do that, but announced last Thursday they would withdraw the plan, calling it a “public convenience.”

Bus operators worry that if taxis are designated public transportation, they will have to share the subsidies they are receiving from the government, about 1 trillion won, with cabbies. The law hasn’t stated how the government would support taxi drivers.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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