Cabbies do U-turn on long-trip discounts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 2008, 12:00am

A taxi drivers' group has dropped its support for discounts on longer journeys - a move intended to help the trade combat illicit discounters - after government advisers said requesting a discount would not be made illegal.

Instead of charging slightly more for short journeys but a reduced rate for longer trips, as the Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) proposes, the Urban Taxi Drivers' Association Joint Committee wants the flagfall - covering the first 2km - to go up by one-quarter to HK$20, and the charge for each 200 metres after that go up from HK$1.40 to HK$2, regardless of journey length.

A taxi owners' group decried the drivers' stance.

But drivers' committee chairman Kwok Chi-piu said: 'What the TAC proposed was discussed by us a long time ago. Yes, it was a good idea, but then it was based entirely on the assumption that legislation would be passed barring passengers from asking for a discount.'

The committee represents a fifth of the city's 30,000 taxi drivers.

In line with the TAC, the union had originally suggested making the flagfall HK$18, with fare increments of HK$1.50 for the first 10km and HK$1 thereafter. It was more or less the same as what taxi owners were proposing: an HK$18 flagfall, increments of HK$1.50 for the first 14km and HK$1.20 thereafter.

Mr Kwok said: 'As the TAC said there would be no law against discounts, we think it is better to set the fare higher so there will be more room for negotiation with passengers.'

Leung Shiu-cheong, chairman of the Taxi Operators' Association, was disappointed. 'We are scheduled to meet the Transport Department together next Thursday,' he said. 'Their new plan is so different from ours that things will be very complicated.'

The department said the government would only consider a unanimous proposal from the trade for fare adjustments.

The owners agree illicit discounting will continue unless the law is changed, Mr Leung said. 'But we think the new fare system can help to tackle the problem. The room for discount drivers will also be further squeezed with the surging fuel price.'

Jim Chi-yung, chairman of the TAC's public transport services subcommittee, said: 'We believe the taxi trade can come up with a fare proposal to eliminate discount drivers.'