Out on bail, taxi drivers warn of more protests

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 December, 2008, 12:00am

Twenty-four taxi drivers arrested for Wednesday night's blockade had hardly been released from the police station when some drivers were warning of tougher action to come.

The drivers' threat came despite a decision by the Legislative Council's transport panel and Transport Advisory Committee to advance their scheduled discussion of a green cabbies' fare adjustment proposal from the second half of this month to next week.

One airport-based driver of a red urban taxi said he had been asked to join another blockade in Central last night, but this was called off after police found out about the plan and set up roadblocks at key junctions.

And the driver of a green new territories taxi who claimed to be responsible for Wednesday's action threatened to mobilise another protest if the government did not scrap the new fare system for red taxis, which cuts fares for long-haul trips and increases them for short and middle-distance trips.

'All we want is to talk to the government and have the new fare increase for red taxis suspended. If the government does not talk to us, we will take further action,' the driver, a Mr Chan, said. 'We do not rule out the possibility of blocking traffic, not only at the airport, but also at the taxi-stands at major border crossings.

'We are also considering taking action to stop drivers who offer discounts to passengers when they pick up clients at the airport.'

Mr Chan was one of the 24 drivers detained overnight after they blocked the main artery between the airport and the city. Fifty red taxis joined their action later, blocking two of Wong Nai Chung Road's three lanes after horse races ended at the Happy Valley racecourse. Dozens more green taxis staged another protest at the Lok Ma Chau border after midnight.

The drivers were released yesterday morning on HK$1,000 bail.

The city-wide action was set in motion by a new fare model that started on Sunday letting red taxis charge less than green cabs on long-haul trips. Green cabbies said they had lost up to 30 per cent of business as a result. Their protest actions were triggered when a security guard at the airport allegedly advised passengers going to Tuen Mun to take red instead of green taxis.

Mr Chan said about 400 green taxis and 1,000 red taxis worked the airport and border checkpoints.

Many red cabbies also said they did not like the new fare model because it slashed their fares for long trips by 20 per cent.

But the Transport and Housing Bureau insisted the plan would remain in place for red taxis. The Transport Department said it would arrange a meeting with the green-taxi groups on Tuesday.