LPG delays keep old cabs on road

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 12:00am

More than 3,000 diesel taxis over seven years old that drivers would normally replace are still running because of uncertainty over subsidies to smooth the switch to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Taxi operators have warned the delays will result in even poorer air quality.

Lai Hoi-ping, chairman of the Hong Kong Kowloon Taxi and Lorry Owners' Association, said most owners had adopted a wait-and-see attitude over the switch.

'We don't know how much the subsidy and other measures to help us switch to LPG will be,' he said.

The Government has proposed a $40,000 grant to each diesel taxi owner but there are fears it is not enough as most taxi owners are heavily in debt.

'Some fear they cannot secure bank loans to replace their diesel vehicles,' Mr Lai said.

He estimated that at least 3,000 of the 20,000 urban taxis were more than seven years old and due for replacement.

Agnes Kwan Sin-kam, assistant secretary for environment and food would not comment on whether the delay in subsidies meant the old taxis left on the road would cause more pollution.

'We are now working to minimise the obstacles in the way of a switch to LPG,' she said.

The Government was considering the industry's proposal of offering interest-free loans or helping them to secure bank loans.

'It is a big financial commitment and we need to be cautious over whether it is affordable and really helps,' Ms Kwan said.

She said the pace of switching to LPG would also be limited by the number of filling stations. There are four so far and six more will be built by the end of the year.

Imports of diesel taxis were banned from the start of this year. A complete phase-out by 2006 is planned.