Legalising Uber will make Hong Kong’s traffic congestion worse

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 11:11pm

As someone who spends equal amounts of time in Singapore and Hong Kong, I would like to comment on the Consumer Council’s proposal to legalise Uber here and the response of taxi operators (“Taxi group threatens court action”, December 8).

This might invite criticism from those who think Singapore is more “advanced and innovative” for embracing ride-hailing services like Uber, and who are pushing for Hong Kong to open up. However, as a driver and commuter in both cities, I feel that the introduction of Uber, and similar services by its regional rival Grab, in Singapore have only made getting around slightly easier, but have also resulted in a lot of new problems.

Uber and its proponents claim that ride-hailing services provide a good alternative to taxis and other transport modes, and encourage people to rely less on car ownership and driving, resulting in less congestion.

This hasn’t actually happened in Singapore. The vehicle population there has actually fallen slightly compared to a few years ago, due to a large number being scrapped under the country’s quota system. Yet, congestion on the roads is worse than ever.

This is due to the fact that Uber and Grab drivers are everywhere, at all times of the day and even during weekends, in order to maximise earnings. Prior to the introduction of such services, most drivers would simply drive to fixed destinations, and roads were less congested out of peak hours.

Furthermore, many of them drive fast and recklessly in their bid to complete as many trips as possible, while quite a few are unfamiliar with the roads and often cause disruption when they make sudden and illegal turns.

Many also drive for long hours and are fatigued, raising the risk of accidents. Spend some time browsing local discussion forums, and one will note that other drivers find them reckless and advise that they be avoided on the roads. Is this what we want to see in Hong Kong?

I use taxis in Hong Kong frequently and, while there are black sheep in every trade, I haven’t had much reason to complain.

Government departments should work on handling complaints against errant taxi drivers efficiently, rather than legalising Uber, which will introduce a host of potential issues to our already congested roads.

John X.Q. Lee, Sai Kung