Taxi operators unhappy with fares overhaul
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Nothing new in plan, drivers say
An overhaul of taxi fares under which passengers would pay more for short trips and less for long ones came a step closer yesterday when the Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) produced proposals for a new fare system.
But the proposals drew fire from taxi operators, who said there was nothing new in them beyond what the trade had already suggested and they had been expecting a new set of fares to be announced.
Drivers are anxious for a new structure so they can offer lower fares for longer trips to compete with illicit discounters, but they say it will now be the end of the year at least before changes can be introduced.
The committee said yesterday the structure should be changed from the present 'front-loaded with subsequent incremental charges being calculated at the same rate' to 'front-loaded with a varying descending scale for incremental charges'.
In effect this means passengers would pay a higher flag fall and initial charge but less per kilometre the further they travel. No figures were stipulated but owners and drivers have already made their own suggestions, including a flag fall increase from HK$15 to HK$18.
The committee also said that in principle passengers should pay the metered fare but came out against legislation to prevent them from asking for a discount.
The recommendations have been accepted by the government but the new fares must await a proposal from the trade and endorsement from the TAC and the Executive Council. The Transport Department will meet the trade next week on the issue.
TAC chairwoman Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said the new structure for urban, New Territories and Lantau taxis would increase the competitiveness of taxi operators and solve the problem of discount gangs.
'With the new fare structure, long-journey passengers can pay less. If the charge is reasonable, I believe passengers will not ask drivers for discounts any more,' she said.
Urban Taxi Drivers' Association Joint Committee spokesman Kwok Chi-pui said drivers had expected a fare increase yesterday.
'What the TAC said was proposed by us last year. There is nothing new from the report. We really wonder when a fare adjustment can be realised. The increase may come as late as the end of this year,' he said.
Taxi Operators' Association chairman Leung Shiu-cheong said 15 per cent of the city's 30,000 drivers offered discounts of 20 to 40 per cent for longer journeys. Without a law against bargaining, the discounters would just be able to undercut the new fares, he said.
But Ms Cheng said legislation was not workable.
'If a mere verbal inquiry could attract a criminal penalty, this would deter the public, including tourists, from using taxi services. No other cities in the world penalise passengers for this,' she said.
Shirley Lam, who uses taxis once or twice a month, said the new fare structure was more reasonable but she would still use discount gangs.