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TAC briefed on progress of introducing premium taxis, increasing seating capacity of PLBs and new franchise for KMB's bus network

The following is issued on behalf of the Transport Advisory Committee:

     Members of the Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) were briefed today (June 28) on the progress of the studies on introducing premium taxis and increasing the seating capacity of public light buses (PLBs) under the Public Transport Strategy Study, as well as the report on public consultation on the requirements of the new franchise for the bus network of Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited (KMB).

     Members noted that the Government proposes to introduce a premium taxi service through a franchise model on a trial basis. The Government preliminarily proposes to grant about three franchises under the trial scheme, which will last for about four to six years. The fleet of a franchise is preliminarily proposed to comprise at least 150 to 200 vehicles. The Government also proposes that the operators maintain an employer and employee relationship with their drivers under the franchises. Franchises will also prescribe the service standard on various aspects including the vehicle types, compartment facilities, the limit on vehicle age, fares, mobile applications for hailing premium taxis, drivers' training, consumer service and complaint handling, and payment methods. The Government will conduct a review upon completion of the trial scheme and make necessary enhancements as appropriate.

     The TAC Chairman, Mr Larry Kwok, said, "There is a certain demand in the community for a premium taxi service which is of a higher quality than the ordinary taxi service. Members agree that the introduction of premium taxis should help provide passengers with an additional choice other than ordinary taxis and address the needs of passenger groups with higher disposable income. Members note the Government's rationale to introduce premium taxis through a franchise model, and agree that the new operating model should help to systematically ensure the service quality in a sustained fashion. Members note that the Government's current proposals are preliminary ones. Noting that the trade has expressed concerns, the Government will continue to liaise with the trade."

     Mr Kwok said, "Members welcome the trade's recent effort in enhancing the taxi service. Members also note that the Government is considering various measures conducive to improving the operating environment of the taxi service and examining measures to enhance processing of applications for hire car permits, especially to assist new market entrants."

     As regards the seating capacity of PLBs, the TAC notes that the Government has commissioned a consultant to carry out a study, and preliminarily proposes to increase the maximum seating capacity of PLBs by not more than three seats. At the same time, the Government also proposes that the seat increase should be applicable to all green minibuses (GMBs) and red minibuses (RMBs). For the former, the proposal would allow GMB operators to freely deploy their vehicles to provide services for different routes. For the latter, RMB operators need not carry out additional vehicle replacement or make extra arrangement for increasing the seating capacity at the time of conversion to GMBs.

     Mr Kwok said, "Members understand that the Government's proposed seat increase has taken into account several major factors. These factors include that the proposed increase will help to meet passenger demand, especially during the peak hours; balance the demand and supply situation of PLB services; and maintain the delicate balance among various public transport services. The concerns of other public transport trades, including those of the franchised bus trade and the taxi trade, should be catered for. Members note that the consultant will conduct further analysis regarding the exact seat increase."

     Separately, the Government had invited the public to offer views on the requirements of the new franchise for the bus network of KMB. The Government briefed the TAC today on the public views canvassed during the consultation period.

     "Members note that the public are more concerned about five areas, namely service quality, fare arrangements, staff management, environmental initiatives and government regulations. Members note that the discussion with KMB on the new franchise would soon commence, during which the Government would take into full consideration comments canvassed through the consultation. The Government would also brief the TAC on the discussion outcome at an appropriate juncture," Mr Kwok said.

Ends/Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:13


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