Taxi groups offer 6-month rent freeze over new fares plan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 October, 2008, 12:00am

Taxi owner groups say taxi rents will be frozen for six months if a new fares scheme is implemented next month.

This is likely to allay the fears of cabbies that the new scheme - raising fares for short trips but cutting them for long journeys - will push up their costs.

Tam Yau-chung, chairman of one of the groups - CTOD Association Company - promised lawmakers in a Legislative Council subcommittee meeting yesterday that it would not raise taxi rents for the next six months - not until they were certain drivers were earning more under the new arrangement.

However, that did not stop the Taxi Drivers and Operators Association, which has staged slow-drive protests and demonstrations over the past two days, from speaking out against the plan.

The group's spokesman, Ng Chun-wai, said: 'Business will be lost, drivers' income will shrink, and no driver will queue for airport passengers anymore or be willing to carry long-distance passengers if long-haul trip fares are slashed by 20 per cent.'

But this opinion was at odds with 18 associations, who urged the new charging system to take effect soon.

Democrat legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo demanded further discussion of the plan and questioned the timing of the plan, which would raise fares for some journeys by up to HK$5.50.

'Minibond owners and small investors whose savings were burned in the stock market, they are your industry's major patrons and they no longer have money for taxis,' he said.

Proponents of the plan criticised Mr Cheng and other lawmakers for being ignorant about their trade and urged them to step out of the way.

Taxi owner Lau Kim-wan said: 'We should not raise fares in a good economy because it boosts inflation, and not in a bad economy when business would be hurt. So when is it a good time for an adjustment?'

Members of the subcommittee will vote on the subsidiary legislation on November 26.