Taxi drivers and owners at impasse over fare structure

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2008, 12:00am

Parties to leave decision to officials after talks become deadlocked

Taxi owners and drivers are locked in a stalemate over a possible fare adjustment, though both sides agree that passengers should pay more for short trips and less for long ones.

Sitting together for the first time to discuss possible changes to the fare system, following the Transport Advisory Committee's proposal last week that it be overhauled, the two parties could not come to an agreement during a three-hour meeting yesterday.

Owners suggested a flagfall of HK$18, with fare increments of HK$1.50 for the first 11km and HK$1 thereafter.

Drivers, on the other hand, proposed an HK$18 flagfall, with increments of HK$1.50 for the first 8km and HK$1 thereafter.

Both sides have altered their original proposals though they all said there were no more concessions to be made.

Leung Shiu-cheong, chairman of the Taxi Operators' Association, was disappointed.

'We are not happy about it. Now we will leave it to the government to decide what to do,' he said.

Urban Taxi Drivers' Association Joint Committee chairman Kwok Chi-piu was more positive.

'There is not a big gap between us, and we think the Transport Department can help us to resolve the difference,' he said.

Last week, the department said it would only consider a single proposal handed in by the trade. A fare adjustment would only happen after endorsement from the Transport Advisory Committee and the Executive Council.

In a bid to compete with illicit discounters who gave 20 per cent off the metered fare, the committee and the trade hoped to have a new structure so they could offer lower fares for longer trips as soon as possible.

'We can now only wait for the government,' Mr Leung said.

Mr Kwok noted that the difference between the two sides' positions came from their reasons for wanting a fare adjustment.

'The owners aim at fighting inflation, while we want to fight off the illicit discounters,' he said.

Lai Ming-hung, spokesman for the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group, which also represents the drivers, said he was not surprised by the deadlock.

'It is very much expected as drivers and owners surely have different views. Owners only care if their taxis can be rented out, while drivers care if the fare can offer them more returns,' he said.

'For the owners, they do not care about the existence of illicit discounters as these drivers also rent their taxis. They do not want the fare to be too low because it can offer these discounters room to negotiate with passengers.

'For the drivers, however, they would love to have a fare that is lower so that these discounters can be eliminated.'

The Transport Department, which co-ordinated the meeting at its Wan Chai headquarters yesterday, noted the two proposals were very similar.

'The department will consider these proposals and will continue communicating with the trade,' a spokesman for the department said.