Letters to the Editor, August 26, 2015

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2015, 2:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2015, 2:42pm

Taxi monopoly indefensible in Hong Kong

In the article "Give taxi licences to private drivers, say two advisers", (August 24), Leung Shiu-cheong of the Taxi Operators Association claims that the car-hire app Uber might work overseas but not in Hong Kong because of our "horrible traffic" and that things could improve only if taxi fares went up (again).

He is grasping at straws to defend the indefensible: a government-sanctioned monopoly in an age when those are being consigned to history in other, similarly crowded cities.

If Uber provides a valuable service to customers willing to pay for it in places like New York, London, Beijing and Moscow (all with equally "horrible traffic"), there is no excuse for it and similar services being denied the opportunity to do the same for consumers in Hong Kong.

Mr Leung argues that higher prices will lead to better service. Seriously? Flag falls are up 50 per cent since I moved here, while the price of oil is down 25 per cent, and the taxi service has only got worse (increased rudeness, dirty taxis, speeding, unwillingness to use Octopus and more drivers refusing to cross the harbour).

Can he tell us what will be different after yet another fare increase?

Based on experience, what will happen is that fares will go up, taxi drivers will earn the same because the rent they pay the taxi owners will rise, and the capital value of taxi licences will shoot up (since the government has capped the number of licences despite our city's rising population), as your own columnist, Jake van der Kamp, explained so well recently - benefiting nobody except the owners of those taxi licences. Customers will be worse off with higher prices, and taxi drivers will be no better off at all.

Mr Leung's real concern about Uber, of course, is that the value of his taxi licence investment could go down as competition in the taxi market develops. Yes, it probably will, but that is the impact of competition on businesses when the market works for the customer - who seems to come last where the government and private interest groups are concerned. Protecting an outdated monopoly might be the reason for the Taxi Operators Association to exist: it is certainly not the role of government to protect that monopoly.

Stephen O'Sullivan, Pok Fu Lam

Competition opens door of opportunity

While many have opined on the apparent aggravation that Uber is causing in the Hong Kong taxi industry, surely the opportunity is being completely missed by the complainants.

This is a time when the taxi industry has an excellent opportunity to embrace competition, realising that this is what consumers seek.

There is no merit in the arguments that Uber is taking business away from taxis. Taxis are doing an excellent job in losing business. The merit should rest in what the taxi industry is going to do to ensure it is the preferred choice of Hong Kong for a personal transport service.

Here are my complaints about Hong Kong's taxis: failure to provide a smooth, non-gut-wrenching ride anywhere; failure to use indicators when changing lanes; failure to recognise where a passenger wants to go, as if the driver has only just arrived in Hong Kong; taking only cash as payment (why in the world the Octopus Card can be used for any other form of transport but not taxis baffles me); and a lack of safety features in these tin cans that crumple with the slightest touch.

Progress is nearly impossible to derail, so taxis might go the way of the dinosaurs. If they don't adapt, they should. Perhaps hitching a ride on a T. rex might be a good alternative, if one were available.

Simon Constantinides, Kowloon Tong

Airport's baggage times misleading

As a regular traveller through Hong Kong airport, I fully endorse Callan Anderson's criticisms of the long wait for the delivery of baggage from flights ("Long wait for luggage is now normal", August 17).

Steven Yiu of the Airport Authority defends the delivery service by quoting the statistic that the airport delivered the first bag within 20 minutes of the flight's arrival 92.8 per cent of the time ("Baggage handling has improved", August 21).

I have noticed with increasing regularity that the first few bags from a flight are delivered within a reasonable time of the flight's arrival, followed by a very long wait for the bulk of the baggage. When I read Mr Yiu's letter, it became quite obvious that the airport is manipulating the figures to show a high percentage of timely delivery of the first bag. The Airport Authority should be ashamed of engaging in such a deceptive practice in order to present a misleading statistic of their efficiency. Give us the time of delivery of the last bag, Mr Yiu.

James Watkins, Mid-levels

Aberdeen Harbour needs better care

Which branch of our civil service is responsible for the overall well-being of Aberdeen Harbour? I recall that, some years ago, it was touted as an area for upgrading to become a tourist destination.

Since then, the promenade has been inflicted with a design scheme which ranges from the banal to toytown kitsch. It has one or two good points, but in general it suffers from the typical "design by committee" that increasingly seems to pervade public areas. It is badly detailed and, in the case of the faux indigenous architecture, just plain bad taste. It also suffers from a serious case of ignorance as to basic environmental needs.

For instance, traffic noise along Aberdeen Praya Road is detrimental to enjoyment of the promenade, yet there is ample space to position a low sound barrier.

Who is responsible for maintenance? Since before the Dragon Boat Festival, the harbour itself has been awash with polystyrene detritus. I imagine that the captains of our fishing vessels, if lost in fog, could easily navigate home by following the increasing density of polystyrene until they reach "pack ice" at the harbour mouth.

The roads around the fish market are often covered in similar lapsap and this complete lack of care for the environment speaks volumes about the attitude of our fishing industry towards husbandry of the seas.

We have spent a lot of money all around the harbour, but until someone in our vast array of civil servants takes this problem seriously, Aberdeen will remain a dump.

John Dainton, Pok Fu Lam

Don't allow handwriting to become lost art

Nowadays, as technology continues to advance, we prefer to text or email instead of writing something out. But handwriting is a person's particular style of writing and it conveys real beauty.

It can help us recognise each person's own unique style and can also help us learn more about history. Although typing is very convenient, it shouldn't completely replace writing, as it has high significance.

Also, writing instead of texting helps us learn better as we create muscle memory when we physically write each word out.

A study tested children aged three to five found that kids who learned to write are better at recognising words than those who learned by typing. This shows that writing by hand is indeed better for learning.

All in all, I think we should stop texting and start writing with a pen.

Melody Ho, Tseung Kwan O