Hail to the gypsy cabs in Moscow

By bne IntelliNews March 11, 2013

bne -

Russia's economy may be dysfunctional, but you can always get a cab in cities.

Running private, or gypsy, cabs has been a staple for most Russians hit hard by the transition to a market economy over the last two decades - you could always drive around the city and pick up passengers if things got desperate. Other Russians pick up people casually to earn a little extra if they are not in a rush.

However, as incomes rise the number of gypsy cabs has dwindled over the last few years to the extent that commercially run taxi services have begun to appear in Moscow at least - something that was impossible until recently. And now the government wants to regulate the business.

The Moscow City Transportation Department has announced plans to introduce new safety requirements for taxis operating in the city. The new requirements will include mandatory airbags, specifying the vehicle's active and passive safety features, and prohibiting the use of vehicles that are more than five to seven years old, Interfax reported.

In addition, drivers will have to go through training courses and special tests could be introduced. Will this be the Russian equivalent of "the Knowledge" that all London cabbies are expected to acquire?

"Today, there is no programme of courses and mandatory tests for drivers. Certainly, taxi drivers must know the Russian language," deputy transportation chief, Dmitry Pronin, told a press conference, alluding to the fact that these days the majority of people working as gypsy cab drivers are immigrants from former Soviet republics like Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.

In a December 2012 poll by Trip Advisor, Moscow scored lowest out of 40 worldwide tourist destinations for "best taxi services." But then inbound tourists don't know about the system of standing at the side of the road with your hand out and stopping any old Lada that passes.

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