Raises suggested by taxi organisations and drivers are too low, said Wong Cheung-pong, a Civil Engineering lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, speaking on the RTHK programme City Forum on Sunday.
Taxi organisations and drivers submitted an application to the Department of Transport to raise taxi fares on May 1. In addition to raises for the starting fare and luggage, and raising each fare increase during the journey, they also suggested that the fair increase interval during waiting times to be shortened from 60 seconds to every 45 seconds.
“Actually, the increase is very low and only matches inflation. In truth, from our point of view, the taxi fares are relatively low in Hong Kong. I think instead that it is too little,” said Wong.
“We have the MTR and the bus and that should serve most residents. Taxi is only a replacement, something for times where one needs to hurry or to get from one place to another. But now, it is very difficult to get a taxi in the mornings… because taxi fares are too cheap.”
However, he also said that he did not completely agree with the shortening of fare increase intervals during waiting times and said that Hong Kong should take a look at other countries, which charge additional fees for certain periods of the day.
To Sun-tong, director of the Motor Transport Workers General Union, said that he was aware that the shortened fare increase interval might lead to passengers getting off the taxi in times of heavy traffic.
Ng Kwan Sing, the chairman of the Taxi Dealers and Owners Association, said that the new policy is intended to encourage taxis to get into busy areas.
Earlier this year Hong Kong netizens listed a lot of complaints about local taxi services, including “Refusing to take passengers,” “taking longer routes,” “selecting passengers,” “no manners,” “refusing to cross the harbour,” “refusing to go to places too near,” and “refusing to go to places too far”.
Asked about why services was considered so bad and how it could be improved Ng replied: “Income is [one of the] problem, the government needs to look into how it can increase our drivers’ income.” He also said that taxi drivers who behaved badly were not punished severely enough.