cab chat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 July, 2004, 12:00am

Hui Chi-kong, 38, feels his occupation is in decline with more transport connections becoming available Sha Tin to Quarry Bay: $188

I normally work around the Kowloon and New Territories area, so I wasn't near Admiralty on Tuesday [when the water main burst]. But I heard from other drivers that there was a big traffic jam.

With commercial places like Admiralty, any accident will just paralyse traffic in the area. I guess I wasn't particularly affected by the road issues last week.

I didn't drive during the tropical storm either. Because we don't have insurance, the company makes us return the taxi within an hour, or else we drive at our own risk. So I ended up going to yum cha with my friends, and I treated it as a half-day holiday.

I don't think you can blame or criticise the Observatory in this case. They gave two hours' warning about the No 8 signal, so workers who had to go to work at 9am or 9.30am just had to make their own decisions.

You have to be fair. It's not like they only told the public half an hour in advance. Sometimes people blame others for everything.

What really has had an impact is that there have been a lot more non-franchised buses these past few years. We see many more of them on the street these days and they put pressure on all the other modes of transport.

Even if many are supposedly legal, I think that they don't have all the right licences. They get by because the government keeps one eye shut regarding them.

The property developers arranged everything so there would be huge tour buses to ferry the residents when estates were built. I guess they mean well, but it's unfair in terms of competition.

Think about it. A franchised bus licence costs $6 million. A taxi licence costs about $3 million. These licences cost so much because they give you a right to operate, but many of the non-franchised buses work anyway without the proper licence.

They've been exploiting a legal loophole and, to tell the truth, the government has not been doing a good job of regulating them.

You can say that this is an example of the government being in league with the businessmen.

The non-franchised buses cause a disturbance to traffic as well. They take up a lot of room and every time they pick up or drop off passengers, they think they're king of the road. So all the cars behind them are stuck while the passengers get on or off.

I've been driving a taxi for two years and I don't really like it. You can't really make a living, there's no job security and your income is unstable. Usually I am able to cover the rent on the car, but it's a rare day when I get to take home much more than $200.

As self-employed drivers, we also don't get any benefits. When I want to take a day off I have to make sure there's a substitute willing to work that day.

I think the profession is in decline. There are more and more transport connections, like West Rail, minibuses. We end up just making the last connecting leg of a journey for the passengers. But it's better than being on social security because it's not good to have to rely on this government. I don't think that I'll be a taxi-driver long term, but it's a matter of waiting for the right opportunity and the right job.

There's no way government officials earning several hundred thousand a month will understand what it is like to earn only several thousand a month. They come to look at what conditions are like, but there are a lot of things you can't just see by walking a couple of blocks and looking.

They will never understand what the grassroots need in relation to our standard of living.