Hong Kong’s red taxis apply for fare hike

Taxis on a busy street in Hong Kong in 2015.

Citing an increase in costs, Hong Kong’s urban taxi associations have applied to increase the flag fall charge by around 25 percent while also raising rates for the distance travelled.

Currently, the flag fall for the city’s red urban taxis is just over HK$24 (US$3), but the city’s taxi associations now want to increase that to HK$30 (US$4).

Under the current urban taxi fare system, passengers are charged HK$24 for the first 2 kilometers, and HK$1.70 (US$0.22) for every subsequent 200 meters travelled.

According to the application, which was sent to the Transport Department yesterday, the taxi associations want to increase that HK$1.70 fare to HK$1.90 (US$0.24).

The industry also want charges on waiting times — the period for which a passenger is charged if a cab is stationary, say, stuck in traffic —  to be shortened from 60 seconds to 45 seconds.

They have also proposed that the surcharge for passengers travelling with animals or birds should be increased by HK$1 to HK$6, which is the same as the baggage surcharge.

According to Ming Pao, chairman of the Hong Kong Taxi Owners’ Association Wong Po-keung said the cost of the fare increase proposal was based on a consensus by the city’s urban taxi organizations.

Wong justified the hike by saying that taxi fares have not kept up with increasing inflation over the last 10 years, saying that it has increased by more than 30 percent in the past 10 years, while taxi fares have only gone up by 24 percent in the same period.

He added that the operating costs for taxis have also increased significantly. He also noted the average monthly income for taxi drivers is about HK$18,000 (US$2,290) — compared to bus and truck drivers who reportedly earn about 34 percent more — and that an increase in pay and conditions is needed to encourage more younger people to join the ageing taxi industry.

Ming Pao reports that there does not appear to have been an application to increase fares for Hong Kong’s New Territories or Lantau taxis.

The news comes more than one month after it was announced that a demerits system for badly-behaved cab drivers is expected to be presented before the Legislative Council next year.

The guidelines, which have not been released yet, are expected to create a two-tier points system to punish taxi drivers who overcharge, tamper with meters, refuse fares, or take roundabout routes to their destinations.

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