The office received 1,048 applications for conversion from taxi drivers on the first day.
Drivers will be called back to the department later so that their cars can be inspected to ensure that they are roadworthy and suitable for use as taxis.
Somsak Poknuengnong, expert adviser to the Phuket Land Transportation Office, said, “The [black] taxis have 180 days in which to sign up and we expect more to come. As a result, the paperwork will take some time to complete.”
In addition to getting a green plate, the converted drivers will be required to charge regulation fares (with fare tables in every taxi), to dress properly, and to have good manners and a “service mindset”.
The drive to legitimise black taxis is the first step in a renewed drive to bring some order to the island’s chaotic transport sector, which is dominated by fiercely independent drivers who have rejected all past attempts to bring them to heel.
For the PTD, the black taxis are the low-hanging fruit; many of the estimated 10,000 black taxi drivers on Phuket will be only too happy to become legal, making it relatively easy to organise them.
Bringing some kind of order to the mafia-ridden tuk-tuks and stemming the violence that erupts from time to time over taxi territories are likely to prove less easy to achieve.