Hong Kong’s transport officials have said they are looking into plans to increase the number of Lantau taxis by 50%.
The Transport and Housing Undersecretary Yau Shing-mu told legislators that the department hoped to increase the number of taxis operating on Lantau Island from 50 to 75 by the year 2025.
Speaking at the Transport Panel, a committee that scrutinises government and decisions and announcements, Yau said the 50% increase took into account the growing population and the increasing number of passengers taking taxi journeys on the island.
Legislators attending the panel said the average number of taxi rides on Lantau has increased from 2,800 a year to 3,500 a year.
According to the Transport Department there are 18,138 licensed taxis in Hong Kong, 84% are urban taxis, 15.7% cover the New Territories area, and 0.3% cover Lantau.
Legislators pressed Yau on how the department came to the conclusion that a 50% increase in the number of taxis was an appropriate number, and some called on him to consider increasing the number of Lantau taxis to 100.
Civic Party member Kwok Ka-ki asked Yau: “If you can provide enough taxi services, people would be willing to give up their own cars and the Government has not been changing its approach.
“Why not 50? Why only 25? The Lantau population has grown a great deal, particularly in Tung Chung, why are you so mean? Do you want to wait until the problem grows bigger?”
Yau insisted that the 50% increase was sufficient and that it would not be wise to increase the number of taxis without taking into account the supply of taxi drivers.
He said: “We will not rule out the possibility of having more taxis in Lantau, but a more appropriate to increase is by 50%. This is not a one-off exercise, and we may review the number later.”
Frankie Yick, a lawmaker who represents the transport constituency, pointed out the cost of a taxi licence was putting off potential new recruits that most taxi drivers operating in Hong Kong were quite old.
Yick called on the Undersecretary to look into the average age of taxi drivers and what kind of incentives could be offered to encourage more people to join the trade.
Other issues discussed at the panel included efforts to ensure the new taxis were accessible for disabled people and environmentally friendly.
Lantau Island is the largest outer-lying island in Hong Kong. It is home to a lot of tourist retreats including Hong Kong Disneyland.