Hong Kong lawmaker proposes regulatory system for taxi trade in bid to sink plan for franchised services

Liberal Party’s Frankie Yick wants penalty system for drivers and creation of task force to work on service improvements and ensure trade’s sustainable development

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 10:38pm

In a bid to sink the government’s proposed premium franchised taxi scheme, Liberal Party lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming has joined hands with the pro-establishment camp in calling for the government to set up a regulatory framework to supervise existing taxi services.

Yick, who represents the transport sector, made the call on Thursday as he unveiled his proposed blueprint for the taxi industry’s development, called “Taxi 2020”, outlining a host of suggestions to enhance the sector’s service standards and ensure its sustainable development.

The proposals are aimed at addressing long-running public complaints about poor service and bad driver behaviour such as refusing hires, overcharging and cherry-picking passengers.

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Yick said the government’s proposal to put an additional 600 franchised cabs from three operators on Hong Kong roads would create unfair competition and put cabbies’ livelihoods at risk.

Representatives from the taxi industry and the pro-establishment camp, including Lau Kwok-fan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and Priscilla Leung Mei-fun of the Business and Professionals Alliance, threw their weight behind Yick’s plan.

Yick proposed setting up a government task force with representatives from the government, the taxi industry, legislators and others to enhance the sector’s development and quality of service.

Another key suggestion was introducing a regulatory system like that for green and red minibuses, to divide taxis into premium and ordinary vehicles.

“Through this system, those which satisfy the government’s requirements can be upgraded as premium taxis which can charge higher fares while the government can impose regulations to oversee their service,” Yick said.

To regulate drivers’ conduct, he also proposed installing CCTV cameras in taxis and setting up a points system to punish cabbies, similar to that for ordinary drivers.

“Under this points system, any case of misconduct will incur [penalty] points. If a certain number of points is reached, the driver’s licence can be suspended for a period of time,” he said.

“Since the existing penalties for taxi drivers are not heavy enough, we hope this points system can serve as an effective deterrent,” he added.

Lau called on the government to ditch the franchised taxi scheme, saying it would only benefit some big conglomerates without addressing the problems facing the industry, such as an ageing workforce and a low recruitment rate.

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Yick will put forward his blueprint during a Legislative Council transport panel meeting on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said the government still believed it essential to introduce franchised taxis, as cabs currently operate under an old licensing system on which the government can no longer impose any regulations.

She added the idea of upgrading existing taxis to premium franchised taxis would not allow the government to regulate the whole sector. “Actually the industry’s proposal of turning ordinary taxis into franchised taxis would deter new players... and hamper the fair development of the market,” she said.