City taxi groups call for fare rises
Fifteen urban taxi groups have applied for fare rises, citing rising fuel and maintenance costs - just nine months after the last increase.
A coalition group comprising taxi firms, owners and drivers proposed a HK$2 rise to the flag-fall price of HK$20, which covers the first 2 kilometres of a journey.
For every 200 metres after the first 2km, they suggest adding 10 cents to the current HK$1.50, up to 9km. Fares after 9km would be frozen.
The proposal was prompted by rising inflation, fuel charges and maintenance costs, which had been increasing the burden on taxi owners and drivers and their families, Wong Po-keung, convenor and chairman of the Hong Kong Taxi Owners Association, said yesterday.
'We considered the affordability of our fare rise proposal for members of the public,' Wong said.
The previous increase was on July 10, when the flag fall for urban taxis rose from HK$18 to HK$20.
Wong said drivers had to pay about HK$30 more for fuel per shift because of rising LPG prices since November. That was expected to worsen as the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department announced yesterday that LPG charges would rise by 69 or 70 cents a litre from next month, taking prices to HK$5.97 to HK$6.41 per litre.
The LPG cost increase is the fourth this year, with an accumulative rise of 40 per cent since January.
It would mean drivers would have to pay another HK$20 for fuel each shift, Wong said.
The proposed HK$2 flag-fall fare rise would barely cover the extra fuel cost, he said, so the 10 cent rise after the first 2km was meant to cover rising vehicle maintenance costs.
The group handed its application to the Transport Department yesterday in a meeting that included senior transport officials.
Taxi bodies not included in the 15 groups had been pushing for the introduction of fuel surcharges - to be adjusted based on fluctuations in fuel costs, similar to charges in air travel - but could not win support from other taxi groups as they believed this would be hard to implement.
Legislative Council transport panel chairman Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said it was time the government considered the option of introducing fuel surcharges in taxis.
'Members of the public have been asking why fuel surcharges can be applied to flights, but not to taxi fares. This is the real solution to the taxi fare issue in the long run,' Cheng said. 'Panellists of all political camps in the Legco panel have shown approval for this.'
But bureaucrats had been reluctant because they were worried there would be calls for similar rises in fares for buses and minibuses once the taxi industry adopted it, Cheng said.
A Transport Department spokesman said it would discuss the fare rise proposal and how to alleviate the burden of rising LPG charges. He said the department was 'very concerned about' the fuel charge issue.
Wong said the association could not be sure whether or when the authorities would approve the rise. The last round of increases took more than a year to be implemented.
In January 2011, the cost of a taxi licence broke through this level, up more than 36 per cent from a year earlier