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The Council for Transport Policy recommended Friday that the Transport Ministry loosen its grip on the taxi industry to introduce greater competition and a variety of services that will benefit consumers.

However, council members failed to hammer out safeguard measures to ensure the safety and quality of taxi services should the industry one day be exposed to competition.

Although the ministry currently controls supply and demand in the industry by restricting the number of taxi operators and vehicles, the council recommended giving licenses to taxi operators based on whether they meet set qualifications.

Concerning taxi fares, the council agreed to set an upper limit to prevent excessively high fares, but at the same time recommended further examination of setting minimum fares.

The council also tabled discussion on whether to adopt a mechanism that would enable the ministry to instruct taxi operators to change their fares if excessive price competition invites the deterioration of cab drivers’ working conditions and leads to a decline in the quality of service.

Based on the recommendation and future deliberations, the ministry plans to submit revisions to the law governing the taxi industry to the Diet early next year and hopes to deregulate it in fiscal 2001, according to ministry officials.

Later in the day, All Japan Automobile Transport Workers Unions criticized the council’s recommendation for lacking safeguard measures that should accompany the proposed deregulations.

The federation, which controls 46,000 cabs, announced it will hold a two-hour nationwide strike on Friday to protest the recommendation. “The council was asked to make a recommendation on measures to prevent harm after abolishing the current regulations,” said Koichi Saeki, a leader in the federation. “But the council could not make a conclusion on the fundamental issue.”

Saeki warned that, without proper measures, the proposed deregulations would lead to an excessive number of cabs and deterioration of service. The federation will make full efforts to prevent the ministry from taking legislative measures, he added.

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