28 October 2016
The taxi market is facing an oversupply with the daily number of passengers falling to 90,000 from 1.3 million about two decades ago. Photo: HKEJ
The taxi market is facing an oversupply with the daily number of passengers falling to 90,000 from 1.3 million about two decades ago. Photo: HKEJ

Taxi drivers eye drastic measures to oppose luxury cab scheme

Taxi operators have threatened to burn tires and deploy more than a hundred cabs to surround the Government Headquarters and the Legislative Council building next week to oppose a government scheme introducing premium taxi services in the city, Metro Daily reports.

Lawmakers are set to resume deliberation on the proposal next Tuesday.

The Transport and Housing Bureau has proposed to roll out three franchise licences for premium taxi services in a bid to introduce healthy competition and improve services in the sector.

Under the pilot scheme, each license holder will be able to deploy 150 to 200 units. A license is good for four to six years.

Drivers of the new service will be hired as employees by the operators, who will provide them with adequate training.

The government is still studying whether to levy fees on franchise rights holders.

Operators of the new service may have to introduce a smartphone app for customers and allow at least one electronic payment platform for the payment of fares.

Those operating the premium taxi service must provide Wi-Fi and mobile phone charging services aboard their units.

Operators are free to decide on which types of vehicles to use, such as low-emission cars or models with larger space for passengers and luggage.

The new service will target customers with relatively higher spending power. Consultants have been commissioned to study the fare rates for the new service, government sources said.

Legislator Michael Tien, who is vice chairman of the Legco transport panel, sees enormous potential for the new service.

But he said the service will not have a significant impact on the taxi market because it will only involve about 600 new cabs, compared with the 16,000 units currently in operation across the territory.

Wong Po-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Taxi Owners Association, said the luxury taxi scheme would “poison” the industry.

He said the proposal will hurt the current taxi service system, which is managed through licenses that can be bought and sold.

Wong said some members of the industry are calling for drastic action to oppose the premium taxi scheme, such as by following the example of their counterparts in Paris who set up road blockades and burned tires during their protests.

He said he is personally calling for further negotiations with the government.

Liberal Party member Mark Fu Chuen-fu, who sits on the Taxi Industry Council, said the proposed scheme will introduce unfair competition to existing taxi drivers.

Fu also noted that there is an oversupply in the taxi market with the daily number of passengers dropping to 90,000 compared with 1.3 million about two decades ago.

Introducing 600 taxis, which can charge customers more while having to pay nothing for their operating licenses, will put current cab drivers at greater risks of losing their livelihood.

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