The Hong Kong government’s move to put 600 “luxury” taxis on the roads has met opposition with a petition signed by the 42 taxi groups represented by the Hong Kong Taxi Council.
The plan laid out by the government would see the addition of three fleets of 200 new vehicles equipped with online hailing and electronic payment features, supported by drivers that are trained in customer service and safety. As a result, the flag-down charge would increase by 50% from the existing charge.
This comes after the taxi industry racked up a record-breaking number of complaints last year – with 11,000 negative feedbacks, mostly due to overcharging, drivers cherry-picking passengers and unnecessary detours.
While this is a clear sign that improvements have to be made to the established service, the Hong Kong Taxi Council, which represents 18,163 cabs at present, deems the proposed luxury franchised taxi scheme to “defy logic” and is sceptical about its ability to enhance the overall taxi service, according to council chairman Hung Wing-tat.
Instead, the Council is asking for an upgrade to existing vehicles.
Added Hung, “The 600 franchised taxis would undermine the development of the taxi industry by aggravating its manpower shortage. There are already premium taxis available from firms such as SynCab, Jumbo, XAB and Primecab etc. Why doesn’t the government turn them into premium taxis and allow them to charge higher fares for premium services?”
According to Sonia Cheng of SynCab, which runs approximately 160 premium cabs, “more support of the existing service is urgently needed as the government has neglected the service and failed to handle the ‘bad apples’.”