Feasibility of premium taxis mulled by transport officials

Feasibility of premium taxis mulled by transport officials

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

There is to be a review into the role of taxis as well as the feasibility of introducing new services such as premium cabs, according to the Transport Advisory Committee chairman.

Larry Kwok Lam-kwong said the government move under the Role and Positioning Review of the Public Transport Strategy Study will begin this year and take at least two years.

It follows a storm of protests in recent days over the use of taxi hailing mobile apps, such as Uber, which use high-end cars like Mercedes-Benz and Tesla.

“A major issue is whether it is feasible and meritorious to introduce new types of taxi services, such as premium taxis, having regard to its implementation over other public transport services,” Kwok said.

Meanwhile, the government has ruled out a taxi trade proposal for a fuel surcharge, saying it may cause confusion. It is also difficult to reach a consensus on a suitable surcharge, he said.

“The imposition of any fuel surcharge will automatically transfer the burden of fuel cost to the passengers. This may cause confusion and give an impression that passengers are subject to a double fare increase,” Kwok said.

Introducing such a surcharge may also lead to a chain reaction in other public transport services such as buses and light buses, Kwok warned.

Separately, the number of electric taxis has fallen despite an ambitious plan to popularize them. The number has dropped from 48 a year ago to 35 in May, according to the Transport Department.

Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association chairman Brandon Tong Yeuk-fung said the fall in petrol prices has made electric cars less attractive. The limited number of recharging stations, with some charging drivers for parking, is another problem, he said.

Tong said he agrees with the proposal to diversify the market with premium and limousine services but the question is whether any taxi owner will be willing to take the risk. Cabbies are reluctant to pay higher rents for better cars, he said. AMY NIP

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