Council trying to regulate taxi demand

I REFER to the letter from J. Wilson (South China Morning Post, April 29), and would like to assure him that the Executive Council is not considering doubling taxi fares in the near future.

The policy on taxi fares recently endorsed by the Executive Council covers two main areas.

First, the policy of maintaining a fare differential of five to seven times between urban taxis and other modes of public transport, and three to four times between New Territories taxis and other modes, should be maintained.

Second, like all other modes of public transport, taxi fares should be front-loaded (that is, the rate of flagfall charge should be higher than the subsequent incremental charge).

Taxi fares for short trips should be increased gradually to maintain the fare differential.

The objective is to regulate taxi demand, such that taxi fares, even on a shared basis and even for short trips, are not cheaper than other public transport fares.

Under this policy, there are no plans to double taxi fares.

On an overall basis, the current differential between taxi fares and other public transport fares is within the range mentioned above, albeit fairly close to its lower limit.

For short trips, the current differential is below the range, but adjustments will be made through gradual increases in flagfall charges and fare restructuring in future fare increase exercises.

It is not the Government's intention to increase taxi fares drastically in the near future.

In fact, any revision to taxi fares would only be made in response to fare increase applications made by the trade.

I note with interest J. Wilson's suggestion of adopting the taxi policy in Seoul and converting 10 per cent of Hong Kong's taxis into deluxe taxis, but tend to think this may not be the answer to our taxi problems.

The most prevalent taxi malpractice attracting the most complaints in Hong Kong are soliciting passenger, refusing hire, and overcharging.

This is due to a combination of factors, including an imbalance in taxi supply and demand and the question of law enforcement.

To tackle these malpractices and improve the quality of our taxi services, the Executive Council has recently given the go-ahead to a package of measures, which include a taxi fare policy as described above, a more flexible taxi licensing system, and tougher penalties against taxi malpractices. These measures will be implemented in the coming months.

It is believed that these measures, rather than the conversion of our taxis into deluxe taxis, will be able to bring about a better taxi service in Hong Kong.

ZINA WONG for Commissioner for Transport