Premium taxi fares could start at HK$32 to HK$36 under a trial scheme being proposed by the government, with 600 taxis earmarked for the pilot project.
The scheme will allocate the vehicles to three exclusive franchise rights, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The Transport Department collected public opinions from a phone survey of 2,000 respondents in May last year.
About 60 percent of the interviewees said they would consider taking a taxi regardless of the fare while 9 percent said an increase of 30 to 50 percent on existing fares was acceptable.
However, some pre-existing fleets of premium taxis don’t share the government’s enthusiasm for the plan.
Cheng Hak-wo, managing director of Chung Shing Taxi Ltd., said “SynCab”, which operates a premium fleet, has been losing money for two years in a row.
The accumulated losses are about HK$20 million, he said.
Cheng said that during busy hours and traffic jams, many are willing to pay more for quick transport but with non-peak hours, the business is not as good.
Cheng said he will not invest in a premium franchise any time soon.
Chau Kwok-keung, founder of Jumbo Taxi, another premium operator, said he will consider buying some licenses even if these don’t make money to prevent “outsiders” in the industry.
Jumbo Taxi’s business model is similar to the government’s proposed fleet, with wi-fi, charging equipment and monitoring of the driver’s performance and attitude. It charges an additional HK$50.
Passengers can complain if they have received bad service and get their money back if the complaint proves to be valid.
Diamond Cab chief executive Doris Leung welcomed the plan, although she is doubtful that there are that many drivers available at the moment.
Government sources said the franchise has its perks as a taxi license is no longer needed. Instead, the drivers only need to pay a franchise fee, which is considerably less than a taxi license fee.
The proposal will be submitted to the Legislative Council transport panel next Friday for review.
Existing taxi owners are not entirely against the plan but want the government to at least let them have a go at the premium fleet before completely taking over.
However, some sources in the government said the taxi licenses are lifelong, making them immune to any law in which the government can restrict their operation.
The premium fleet licenses can be revoked at any time and need to be renewed every five years.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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