Ombudsman to probe rising cost of taxi licences

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 June, 1997, 12:00am

The Ombudsman is to investigate the soaring cost of taxi licences in an effort to put a brake on fare rises.

Assistant Ombudsman Chan Wai-chung expressed concern at licence premium increases from $1.7 million at the last tender in September 1994 to $3.3 million from the first quarter of this year.

Only a limited number of licences are issued.

Mr Chan said he was worried passengers would suffer.

The Ombudsman had a role to ensure enough was done to prevent speculation.

'Our concern is what the subsequent effect is when prices go up,' he said. 'People always say the administration can't do anything drastic because it will make prices fall.

'But the question is: if there was a measure some time ago, would we have been in this situation?' The announcement drew reservations from Commissioner for Transport Dorothy Chan Yuen Tak-fai, whose branch is reviewing the licensing system with the Transport Advisory Committee.

Legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said speculation was beyond the Ombudsman's responsibilities.

'The Ombudsman probably has opened up a new area that Legco should look into. We've already criticised the Government for doing nothing to cool speculation.' There are 18,000 taxis in Hong Kong, making up 13 per cent of public transport.

The Ombudsman's office said it was important to protect the public.

The Ombudsman's chief investigation officer, Maria Chau Yee-shun, denied any overlap with the Transport Department's investigation, saying the office would focus on the licensing system and its possible effect on prices rather than policy.