Hong Kong unions to park 500 taxis near Legco to protest against government’s franchised taxi plan

They want lawmakers to accept petition to scrap scheme, and implement new framework to enhance service quality

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 March, 2017, 1:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 March, 2017, 9:51pm

Taxi drivers are planning to park some 500 cars near the Legislative Council on Friday as part of a protest against the Hong Kong government’s proposal on franchised taxis, unions said on Thursday.

The government plan will allow an additional 600 franchised cars to charge up to 50 per cent more in taxi fares by providing upgraded services.

The unions urged the government to shelve the trial franchised taxi scheme and instead, introduce a new regulatory framework to improve service quality.

“The creation of 600 new taxis will not help raise the service standards of all the cabs in Hong Kong,” said Francis Li Chiu-fan, spokesman for the Association of Taxi industry Development, on Commercial Radio on Thursday.

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“The root of the problem is the attitude of the drivers. The only way to improve the overall quality of taxi services is for the government to regulate the service standards of taxi drivers.”

He said the government could implement a mechanism under which drivers would be penalised for bad behaviour or even have their licences suspended.

With Hong Kong already seeing 18,000 taxis on its roads, Li believed the additional franchised taxis would only aggravate road congestion and defeat the government’s aim of containing vehicle growth.

He said that some 500 vehicles would be involved in a demonstration in an abandoned car park in Tamar, Admiralty on Friday .

About 20 taxis will be driven slowly around the area while union representatives will deliver a letter of petition to lawmakers who will discuss the proposed trial scheme at a Legislative Council’s transport panel meeting on Friday morning.

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The government expects to introduce a bill to Legco next year for the implementation of the five-year franchise scheme involving a total of 600 franchised taxis.

It will comprise three taxi-operating franchises with each running 200 taxis charging higher fares, ranging from HK$32 to HK$36 for fixed start fees, about 35 to 50 per cent higher than current fares.

Lawmaker Wu Chi-wai, chairman of Democratic Party, said he did not support the scheme as it failed to address the existing problems plaguing the taxi industry.

“The government can’t just ignore their problems and leave them to their own devices. Also, the scheme only allows three operators which will not help promoting market competition,” he said.

Liberal Party’s legislator Frankie Yick Chi-ming said the government should hold talks with the taxi trade to resolve their discontent. “The government should try to improve the taxis’ service standards instead of creating another thing to satisfy disgruntled passengers,” he said.