LANZHOU, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Taxi drivers in a northwest China city went on strike Tuesday and Wednesday to protest long hours of waiting for refills of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the local government said.
The strike, which involved at least 3,000 taxis in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, began at 8 a.m. Tuesday, a city government official said Thursday.
By Thursday morning, about 2,400 taxis had resumed service and traffic in downtown areas was "normal," said Niu Xiangdong, vice mayor of Lanzhou, at a press conference.
Lanzhou has about 6,700 taxis, all fueled by LPG. Although the fuel sells for about half the price of gasoline, LPG fueling stations are still few and far between.
Niu said the city government is persuading the other drivers to get back to work soon, with promises to address their complaints properly.
The strike began on the last day of the May Day holiday, with at least 80 LPG-fueled taxis parking at two downtown locations in Chengguan district. Their drivers demanded more LPG refill stations to meet growing demand for the fuel.
The city government's transportation bureau said only 600 taxis were in service on Tuesday, and at least three taxis had their windows broken by striking cabbies.
"Many drivers work 12 hours a day, but four to five hours are spent waiting in long queues for LPG refills," said a driver surnamed Xu from the Lanzhou Hengshun Taxi Co. "This makes our job even tougher."
Most taxi drivers, according to Xu, have to work 12 hours a day to make ends meet. "Our daily operating cost is around 300 yuan (48 U.S. dollars), including 220 yuan for a car rental fee paid to the taxi company, 60 yuan for fuel and 20 yuan for meals."
"If we wait for just two hours instead of four to refuel, we can ensure nine to 10 hours of operation and make about 2,000 yuan a month," he said. "But now, our net profits are close to zero."
Lanzhou has 23 LPG stations for motor vehicles, 13 of which are in downtown areas. "These are far from enough for the city's growing number of LPG-fueled vehicles," Xu said.
Three of the downtown stations were temporarily closed for repairs in May, making the situation even worse, he said.
"We hope the government will build more LPG refill outlets so we won't have to spend so much precious time waiting in lines," the driver said.
Niu said the three stations had reopened as of Thursday, adding that the government will arrange for LPG tank trucks in downtown areas to exclusively serve taxis.
Meanwhile, he said at least 13 new LPG stations are being built now and an additional 100 stations will be built in the coming five years.
The government's plan, however, may not prove to be an immediate solution for the bottleneck, as Yue Jikuan, an LPG station manager in downtown Lanzhou, said it takes at least 18 months to build a new station.
Yue said a growing number of private car owners have chosen to drive LPG-fueled vehicles amid soaring gasoline prices.
The city government did not say how many vehicles are fueled by LPG in Lanzhou.