The taxi industry is to establish a new council aimed at improving self-regulation and enhancing the quality of services, it was announced on Thursday.

They will also be building an official taxi-hailing service app with a customer rating function that will be tied in with a reward and punishment scheme for drivers.

The app is expected to launch early next year and passengers will be able to choose their preferred routes for the journey on the system, which integrates GPS navigation, Oriental Daily reported.

Passengers will also be able to rate their satisfaction with cabbies after the ride. Those drivers who wish to be on the app must get pre-approval from an industry association recognised by the Transport Department.

taxi council
Announcing the establishment of the council. Photo: i-Cable TV screenshot.

“Drivers will be graded [on their performance]; those with a consistently low score will first be asked to join training courses but if their situation does not improve, they could be taken off the system and not be allocated any passengers,” said Fu Chuen Fu, consultant for the council. Meanwhile, drivers with high ratings will receive bonuses.

500 taxis are expected to take part during the first stage of the scheme, with plans to eventually cover all taxis in the city. The app reportedly cost millions of dollars to develop with this money also going into the operation of the app. The amount was collectively funded by the industry.

hk taxis
Taxis in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikicommons.

The council will consist of 17 taxi associations and individuals from the industry – including drivers, taxi owners, call stations – as well as members of the public. It will tackle issues such as how to of diversify taxi services so as to satisfy the needs of the market, handling enquiries and complaints, and so on.

The council will also host talks and training sessions, with the objective of attracting young people into the business and improving the the overall quality of service.

The launch of mobile car service app Uber in the city has upset taxi drivers. Three unions staged a protest against the app in Wan Chai in July.

Taxi drivers applauded the police crackdown on the app in August. Meanwhile, cabbies who overcharge remains a common problem, with reports of police arresting drivers in sting operations that took place in September and October.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.