“It is as if we have been abandoned, the government doesn’t care about us,” Chairman of the Hong Kong Taxi Owner’s Association Wong Po-keung said in response to the government’s plan to introduce luxury cabs.
Wong claimed that new luxury taxi’s operational structure was directed against the traditional taxi model, which is managed through government issued-licences which can be bought and sold.
According to a document submitted to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Transport on Monday, the Transport Department plans to introduce around 450 to 600 luxury taxis as soon as 2018. The vehicles will be operated by up to three companies. Each will be in charge of 150 to 200 premium cars for four to six years under the pilot scheme. Rates for the taxis will be 60 percent to 100 percent higher than current taxi fares.
Luxury cabs will also have to meet standards in service. Earlier this year, local netizens listed complaints about local taxi services including issues such as “refusing to take passengers,” “taking longer routes,” “selecting passengers,” and “no manners.”
Wong said that it was unfair that those operating luxury taxis did not have to pay licensing fees and will be able to charge higher rates. He also said that many drivers told him that they should mimic demonstrations in Paris by occupying roads and burning tires in protest at the scheme.
Mark Fu Chuen-fu, an accountant also speaking on Commercial Radio, said that the introduction of the luxury taxi program was of no help to normal drivers. “In the future when the luxury taxis are rolled out, those who can spend most are gone – it is unavoidable that [for] all 18,500 taxis… the service will only be worse.”
He added that because the luxury taxis work on a different model, “those managing taxis now basically cannot continue, so no one will invest in [taxi licences].” Luxury taxis are “poison” for existing taxis, he said.
Licence prices have dropped from a high of HK$7.18 million last year to HK$5.95 million.
The government’s document stated that the purpose of introducing luxury taxis was to “give people another choice aside from normal taxis and take care of the needs of those who have better spending power.” It was “not to replace normal taxis,” it said.
It also suggested that companies managing luxury taxis should create an app so that passengers can easily hail a cab. However, unlike other apps, such as Uber, which saw its offices raided on charges of operating illegal hire car services, the app cannot ask for the passenger’s destination.
The document will be discussed by the Panel on Transportation next week.