Proposals seek views on taxi fare discounts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am

Public consultation amid continuing row over illegal reductions offered to passengers

The government is seeking the public's opinion about proposals that could open the way to legal discounting of taxi fares.

Amid a continuing row over illegal discounts of up to 40 per cent being offered by some operators, the government is releasing a pamphlet asking drivers and passengers if they would prefer varying fares, provided there was a ceiling.

In one of two suggested models - based on overseas examples - the maximum fares would be set by the operators. In the other, the upper limits would be decided by the government and the operators would have to apply for permission to charge less.

In both cases, there would be more than one charging rate and the fares would be subject to regular adjustment by the trade. Drivers would have to list charges in their cars. The proposals received a wary response from drivers, with one saying it could lead to an overall fare reduction and loss of income for all drivers.

The two models are set out in one of seven questions in the pamphlet, which was distributed yesterday at

all taxi stands, Home Affairs offices and on the website The consultation ends on January 31. They are based on practices in Singapore and Tokyo, two of the four cities studied by the Transport Advisory Committee.

Committee chairwoman Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said the committee did not have any preference at this stage. Members of the committee have visited Singapore, Tokyo, London and New York since it was commissioned in April to research ways of improving the taxi trade's competitiveness.

The study comes as increasing numbers of taxi operators are touting for passengers by offering discounts of 20 to 40 per cent on long-haul trips, which law-abiding drivers say is forcing them out of business.

While it is illegal for drivers to offer discounts, bargaining by passengers is not, causing the practice to flourish.

Jim Chi-yung, head of the committee's public transport services subcommittee - in charge of the review - said fare bargaining by passengers was not an offence in any of the four countries studied, but none experienced discounting problems similar to Hong Kong because demand for taxi services in those cities far exceeded supply.

Taxi pooling - also illegal in Hong Kong - is allowed in all four cities.

Taxi driver Kwok Chi-piu said normalisation of discount taxis was not feasible in Hong Kong because all drivers would be forced to lower their fares in the face of competition and that would lead to a drop in income.

These are edited versions of articles which appeared in the South China Morning Post yesterday

Web links - government website for public consultation where you can make your views known - Transport Advisory Committee - listing of Hong Kong taxi firms

On the road

Details of taxi operations in four overseas cities


Fares: operators allowed to set their own

Surcharges: operators allowed to set their own

Sharing: allowed at fixed fares

Bargaining: not an offence


Fares: only upper limits of flagfall and incremental charges regulated

Surcharges: various approved by government

Sharing: allowed during certain periods

Bargaining: not an offence


Fares: uniformly charged according to meter

Surcharges: various approved by government

Sharing: allowed at designated locations and during certain periods

Bargaining: not an offence

New York

Fares: uniformly charged according to meter

Surcharges: for night-time and peak-hour services

Sharing: allowed at designated locations at fixed fares

Bargaining: not an offence

Facts and figures

Cost of a HK cab licence:

Red cab: HK$3.48m

Green cab: HK$2.25m

Blue cab: HK$3.38m

Number of licensed taxis: 18, 056

Number of passenger journeys in August: 3.46m

Word power

Match the following words from the text with their meanings on the right.

1 long-haul

2 law-abiding

3 offence

4 exceeded

5 feasible

a surpassed; went beyond (something)

b obeying the law

c practical; possible; capable of being accomplished

d illegal act; crime

e (journeys) of great distance

Fill in the blanks with the words you have learned.

6 Driving under the influence of alcohol is an ________________________________________ punishable by law.

7 Banning all vehicles from busy districts is not a __________________________________ solution to the problem of air pollution.

8 Passengers usually feel very tired after a _________________________________ flight.

9 The students organised a party to celebrate their exam results which __________________________________ all expectations.

10 The rehabilitation programme is aimed at helping ex-convicts become __________________________________ citizens.


1. e, 2. b, 3. d, 4. a, 5. c, 6. offence, 7. feasible, 8. long-haul, 9. exceeded, 10. law-abiding


Should taxi drivers be allowed to give discounts?


Have you ever asked for a discounted fare?

Does Hong Kong have too many taxis?

Should passengers be allowed to share rides?


'In New York or London, you can't find an empty cab at peak hours even if you wish to pay more, so why would the drivers offer you a discount'

Jim Chi-yung, head of public transport services subcommittee

'Taxi drivers in Tokyo are employees of big corporations, but in Hong Kong many are still individual drivers who shoulder their own losses'

Taxi driver Kwok Chi-piu

'Many believe the introduction of a fuel surcharge may lead to fluctuations in taxi fares'

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng Yu-wah

'There should be fair trade. I don't want my kids to see me doing something illegal'

Taxi driver Ng Wai-chi