Frequent taxi fare hikes a sign of bad planning by HK government

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am


I have finally realised that the Hong Kong government thinks the economy is great, life is wonderful and yet another HK$2 hike in the flag fall for our illustrious taxi drivers, known for their stomach-wrenching driving, is no problem at all.

In the last six years alone, we have seen the taxi meter rates increase due to various reasons. Mostly, it's because of the fuel costs, and apparently always at a HK$2 limit. (Were officials up all night thinking of a numerical number or is there a standard HK$2 increase every time?)

To review and consider an amendment to the taxi fares every three or four years is acceptable, but not every 18 months as the government departments may see fit.

When we see increases in the cost of transport in Hong Kong today, there are two options firms can take. They can either raise their prices with government assistance, risking the ire of the consumer, or they can think about how to use their profits and maintain their market share through better customer service.

The current preference globally is to impose a fuel surcharge, which is similar to a service charge in a restaurant - not required and covered in the cost of the gross profit.

How many times have we seen local transport costs increase because the government thought it was the right idea?

The Star Ferry is a very worthy means of transport, yet it had to increase ticket prices as the government filled in most of the harbour and we need to walk half a kilometre to get to the pier, thus cutting passenger usage.

The MTR fare increases for toilets and screen doors defy logic, tunnel charges are crazy, and government fees for taxi licences - with the possibility we have too many cabs on the road - make it difficult for drivers to make a living.

The sudden realisation is that we are footing the bill for the government taking the easy route of continuously adding HK$2 to the fare without thought.

Our taxi network is to be admired for being there when the weather is inclement, and for providing a far better service than Singapore's, but if the Legislative Council agrees (as I suspect it will) to any fare increase, it should link that increase to the Transport Department engaging more on regulation of driver safety, regular testing, and comfort of the passenger.

I suspect a reduction in the clutch-and-brake undulations that usually churn my stomach daily on my ride to work would save a substantial amount in fuel and driver costs.

Callan Anderson, Quarry Bay