SCMP Saturday, July 7, 2001

Punters taken for a ride as charges of the taxi brigade change with the wind


Post reporter Alison Yeung took four taxi trips yesterday morning to see if drivers were illegally charging higher fares while the No 8 signal was up. Here's what she found:
Quarry Bay to Causeway Bay
Normal charge: $32
Charge yesterday: No extra charge:
What the driver said: "I don't charge extra because it's illegal. A passenger could report me to the police. If they really appreciate our service in a typhoon, they will give us tips. Most passengers would refuse to pay the extra charge anyway. Fewer and fewer taxi drivers dare to charge extra in typhoons these days. In the past when Hong Kong people were rich, taxi drivers could double their charges in this weather.
"There's no danger in driving a cab when the typhoon signal is hoisted. It is most dangerous when the black rainstorm warning is hoisted."
Causeway Bay to Tsim Sha Tsui
Normal charge: $74
Charge yesterday: $95
What the driver said: "I charge extra because it's very dangerous to operate in a typhoon. In the past when the economy was good, most taxi drivers did not operate in typhoons. Now every taxi driver is racing around to find passengers.
"As for myself, I will charge more if the passenger has a suit on and looks rich. But I won't charge more than $50 over the metered rate. You look like a student so I'm only charging you $20 extra."
Tsim Sha Tsui to Central
Normal charge: $92
Charge yesterday: $140
What the driver said: "In this kind of weather a tyre can burst very easily. If we have to replace it, we get soaked in the rain. If you're unlucky and run into a deep puddle, the taxi is bound to break down.
"I didn't make much extra money today. There aren't many people on the streets. They would rather go by MTR."
Central to Quarry Bay
Normal charge: $51.4
Charge yesterday: No extra charge
What the driver said: "I'm not charging extra because the weather's not really that bad. This morning a passenger got angry and got out of the taxi when I tried to charge him $15 more.
"I think it's reasonable to charge extra in these conditions - it is so dangerous. When there is damage, no one will compensate us."