Angry taxi drivers descend on Central demanding premium franchise scheme be scrapped

More than 300 drivers protest near government complex; they later disperse after Legislative Council panel postpones discussion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 11:26am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 March, 2017, 3:36am

More than 300 taxis descended on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council complex and surrounding areas on Friday morning, with operators demanding the government scrap a proposal to introduce franchised taxi services or risk crippling their business.

By 11.30am, 50 taxis were parked outside government headquarters in Admiralty, 30 were outside the nearby Citic Tower and more than 250 had positioned themselves around Central Pier and along Lung Wo Road opposite the main post office.

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The taxi trade is up in arms over the government’s plan to allow an additional 600 franchised taxis to charge up to 50 per cent more in fares by providing upgraded services.

The protest came as a Legco transport panel was set to discuss the scheme at a meeting scheduled for 11.45am. However, the discussion was postponed to the next meeting after lawmakers ran out of time.

Shouting slogans such as “withdraw the proposal” and “prescribe the right medicine”, dozens of members of the Anti-Taxi Franchises Concern Group demanded the government shelve the trial scheme. They also submitted petitions to lawmakers.

Group spokesman Mark Fu Chuen-fu said the launch of an additional 600 taxis would do nothing to resolve public discontent over poor service standards, such as bad manners, refusing hires and cherry-picking passengers.

“All we want is to lobby lawmakers’ support and also force the government to change its mind,” he said.

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“The government only met us once over the past nine months and it refused to accept our opinions.”

Taxis at all three protest locations started to disperse from about 12.20pm, after the panel announced the scheme would not be discussed until next week.

A protesting driver said the scheme was unfair because it allowed franchised taxis to charge higher fares. “This will polarise the taxi trade. Why can’t we charge higher fares? Some existing premium taxis are already equipped with the upgraded services,” he said.

Special traffic arrangements were put in place from 9.30am on Friday at Lung Wo Road, Tim Mei Avenue and Lung Wui Road to reduce congestion. On-street parking spaces outside the post office and westbound along Lung Wo Road were temporarily suspended.

Fu said they were not aiming to cause traffic congestion and inconvenience to passengers or other motorists.

A Transport and Housing Bureau spokeswoman said the government would continue to liaise with the taxi industry.

“The government appeals to the industry to exercise restraint and express its opinions in a peaceful and reasonable manner,” she said.