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The government plans to promote ride-sharing services, currently banned in most areas, to help improve the availability of transportation in rural areas, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said. | GETTY IMAGES

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the government plans to promote ride-sharing services that are currently banned in most areas to help improve the availability of transportation in rural areas.

“It is necessary to review the current system from the standpoint of (transportation service) users,” Abe said Thursday at a meeting to discuss growth strategies and structural reform measures.

The legal revisions required for deregulation would also allow taxi operators, which have opposed ride-sharing, to engage in the management of such operations, government officials said.

Ride-sharing services that match drivers of private vehicles with people seeking transportation are prohibited in Japan except in areas where no public transportation is available. Where such services are available they can only be used by local residents and are typically managed by local governments and nonprofit organizations.

“The involvement of taxi operators will benefit both municipalities and service users,” as it will lessen local governments’ burden in running ride-sharing operations while enhancing users’ convenience in areas where there are not enough drivers, Abe said.

Details will be finalized by summer, and a bill to revise the relevant transport-related law will be submitted to the Diet next year, the officials said.

Once the ban is lifted, tourists would also be able to use such services, they added.

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