Cabbies seek flag fall of HK$18-$20

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2008, 12:00am

Drivers propose new fare scale to counter discount taxis

Taxi drivers have proposed increasing the flag fall and the fare for short journeys while reducing the fare for longer journeys in an effort to combat competition from fare discounters.

The suggestion was put forward at a meeting of 22 taxi drivers' groups yesterday as they prepared to submit their opinions for a consultation being conducted by the Transport Advisory Committee.

'We propose that the flag-fall charge should be raised to HK$18 or HK$20, and fares should be increased for journeys shorter than 4km. But we have not decided by how much the fare should go up,' Urban Taxi Drivers Association joint committee chairman Kwok Chi-piu said after the meeting.

'We also suggest cutting the fare from HK$1.40 to HK$1 a kilometre after 14km of a journey so that we can be more competitive against drivers who offer 20 per cent discounts to their passengers.'

But the groups are still divided about how to set the fare level for journeys of 4km to 14km.

'Some drivers say the fare for this part should remain the same, while some say it should go up and some say it should be cut. We have not come to a conclusion on this,' Mr Kwok said.

The groups will submit their views to the Transport Advisory Committee once they have reached consensus about the details.

The consultation, which aims to improve the taxi trade's competitiveness, has been launched in response to a growing trend for taxi operators to offer discounts of 20 to 40 per cent for longer journeys, which law-abiding drivers say is forcing them out of business.

The consultation will end on January 31.

'We will try to reach a conclusion about details of the fare increase for short journeys and confirm the proposed fare cut for long journeys at our next meeting before the Lunar New Year,' Mr Kwok said.

The discussion yesterday was mainly about how to tackle the discount groups and also changes the drivers wanted to make to the present fare system, which is covered by the public consultation, he said.

'Rising fuel prices are also our concern, and we will include that factor in our consideration when we work out details of the fare levels for short and long journeys,' Mr Kwok said.

'Many drivers are making less than before, as the fuel prices are so high at the moment.'

A spokesman for the Transport Department said it had representatives at the meeting to gather views from the taxi groups.

Motor Transport Workers General Union taxi affairs director To Sun-tong, who did not attend the meeting, said his group was more worried about when drivers would be able to collect a proposed HK$1 surcharge to compensate for rising fuel prices.

'All attention is now diverted to other issues such as discussions about the fare system, and how to set new fares for short and long journeys,' he said. 'But what our union is really concerned about is when drivers can have that extra HK$1 to compensate us for our losses due to high oil prices.'