What Hong Kong taxis have to do if they want to beat Uber
I refer to your report on the recent protest by the taxi trade (“Hong Kong taxi drivers stage protest over illegal ride-hailing services in wake of fatal Uber crash”, April 22).
After the first accident in the city involving an Uber vehicle last week, about 30 taxi drivers and owners protested outside the government headquarters in Tamar on Sunday, renewing their call for a crackdown on illegal ride-hailing services in Hong Kong.
Although current laws in Hong Kong make services like Uber illegal, and there is a risk of not getting any compensation if an accident occurs, ride-hailing is still popular among Hongkongers. Many prefer to call Uber rather than hail a taxi cab. The reason passengers prefer ride-hailing is that they enjoy better services on the trip.
Take Uber, for example. Drivers offer better customer service and their vehicles do have more comfortable seats, whereas more than half of Hong Kong taxis are at least seven years old, according to the Transport Department. Some Uber drivers also provide bottled water and music during the trip.
The attitude of many taxi drivers has also given the traditional trade a bad image. Some drivers are impolite or refuse to cross the harbour, and reckless driving is quite common.
If they really want to shut down illegal ride-hailing services, Hong Kong taxi drivers should find a way to improve their services and attitude. Continuing to seek fare increases will not improve their business, it will only have a negative impact on customer perception.
Ride-hailing services will become more popular and may even be made legal in Hong Kong, if taxi services do not improve and public opinion goes against them.
Patrick Leung, Sai Kung