Taxi drivers protest again over plan to cut fares for longer trips

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2008, 12:00am

Taxis were grounded for two hours at the airport yesterday when more than 200 airport taxis staged a protest against a plan that would slash fares of long-haul trips by up to 20 per cent.

It was the second protest by the Taxi Drivers and Operators Association in three weeks since the Executive Council approved a plan that allows a fare increase of up to HK$5.50 on short journeys and lower fares on longer trips.

The association split into four groups in yesterday's action. Flight passengers found an empty taxi stand outside the airport as more than 150 airport taxis refused to enter the area to pick up customers. Fifty more taxis staged a slow-drive protest at the south car park.

After the strike ended they drove to Central to join other drivers in a slow-drive that blocked one lane of Garden Road leading to Central. About 200 taxis took part in the slow drive at its peak, moving to Wan Chai and causing severe congestion on Gloucester Road.

Earlier, 30 drivers marched from the Legislative Council to the Central Government Offices. One protester smashed three taxi meters to show how drivers' livelihoods would be affected if the plan goes ahead.

The vice-chairman of the association, Ma Chung-lung, urged the government to only go ahead with the part that allowed the flag-fall price to rise from HK$16 to HK$18.

'It is ridiculous that the government should make every one of us a member of the discount gangs in order to rid our industry of them.'

The Transport and Housing Bureau said the plan was the result of a long-term discussion between 30 drivers' groups to tackle illegal taxi gangs that tout for customers by offering discounts on long-haul trips. Many drivers believe the plan could help enhance their incomes because shorter trips account for nearly 90 per cent of their business.

A veteran driver, who did not want to be named, said the group rejected the plan because many were already offering discounts and the policy would reduce their income.