Cab drivers and owners split over fare rise plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 March, 2010, 12:00am

Some taxi owners are planning to propose a HK$2 increase in the fare flag-fall again - a little more than a year after the government approved a rise on short-haul journeys, but the proposal is unlikely to win support from drivers.

A taxi company called Luen Tai, which has recently joined the 28 urban taxi groups that vote on major issues in the industry, lobbied other taxi owners to support its proposal.

One of its supporters is the Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association - a leading group of taxi owners with several allies in the alliance, which said an increase was necessary in light of taxi owners' burgeoning expenses.

'Gas prices, component costs and insurance premiums have all risen since the last fare rise; we owners foot the bill for these and the burden is getting heavier on our shoulders,' the association's chairman, Brandon Tong Yeuk-fung, said.

The international liquified petroleum gas price has risen from HK$1.44 per litre in late 2008 to HK$3.14 per litre in February, while annual insurance premiums have more than doubled from about HK$8,000 two years ago due to more claims over the years.

But a drivers' group said it would definitely oppose the plan.

'It's a trick. Taxi owners will use the fare rise as an excuse to raise taxi rents, while drivers will not enjoy more income because there will be fewer passengers,' said Kwan Yuk-wah, chairman of the Urban Taxi Drivers Association Joint Committee.

Taxi owners are still gauging opinion from other motor companies before they will officially file the application, but the Transport Department will not process it until the proposal gains support from all 29 urban taxi groups.

The taxi fare flag-fall was raised from HK$16 to HK$18 for urban taxis under a new pricing structure that increased fares for short-haul trips and cut those of long-haul journeys. Each jump on the meter for the first 9km was raised from HK$1.40 to HK$1.50 and dropped to HK$1 thereafter.