No discounts, but operator confident of business growth
The operator of the GPS taxis is confident that business will grow by at least 15 per cent, even though passengers will not be offered discounts.
Soliciting passengers with offers of a discount on the fare shown on the meter is illegal in Hong Kong, but it is no secret that at least 80 per cent of radio taxi groups offer concessions of as much as 20 per cent.
The chairman of the Urban Taxi Drivers Association Joint Committee, Kwok Chi-piu, said the GPS taxi scheme was destined to be a failure.
'Why should passengers choose [GPS taxis] when they have a cheaper alternative?' he asked.
But Kwok Chi-ping, chairman of Castel Spaceinet, the company behind plans for taxis with global positioning systems, said that passengers valued service over prices.
Castel Spaceinet teamed up with the six largest taxi groups, which can mobilise up to 3,000 taxis, to create new taxi company HK Cab ITS to operate the GPS taxis.
'The discount taxi gangs are usually small operators and don't always find vacant cabs for the passengers,' he said. 'Besides, they sometimes end up in disputes with passengers over the amount of discount. That won't happen to our passengers.'
GPS taxis plan to offer other services, such as one for lone female travellers where a password will be issued, enabling family members to track the journey on the company's website. Regular passengers will be offered shopping or dining benefits. 'Our members will be issued a card which they can read in a machine in our taxis, to check how many points have been gained,' Mr Kwok said.
HK Cab ITS has already formed partnerships with businesses including restaurants, hotels, airlines and retail chains.
'We do not have to transfer our investment costs to drivers and passengers because our profits will come from our business with corporations - they offer us passengers and we offer them business,' he said.
Passengers will be offered a personal internet account which keeps record of their taxi expenses and the benefits they earn.
Driver-unionist Kwok Chi-piu insisted he would not join. 'They think they can control the trade, but taxi drivers do not like being controlled.'