LegCo Panel on Transport
Taxi Charges for Western Harbour Crossing
The Transport Advisory Committee has recommended that a taxi passenger should be required to pay $40 for using the Western Harbour Crossing (WHC).
2. The WHC is a 1.97 kilometre dual-three lane submersed tunnel linking West Kowloon and Western District on Hong Kong Island. It will be opened to traffic in April 1997. In accordance with the Western Harbour Crossing Ordinance, private cars and taxis will have to pay a toll of $30.
Existing Taxi Charging Policy
3. Taxi drivers prefer to operate in areas with which they are familiar. At present taxi passengers are charged $20 for using the Cross Harbour Tunnel (CHT) or Eastern Harbour Crossing (EHC), i.e. two times the tunnel toll. This is intended to reimburse a taxi driver for a toll charge in the event that he fails to obtain a hire on the return journey across the harbour. If he obtains a return hire on street, the passenger pays him a charge which is again at two times the toll. If he obtains a return hire at a cross harbour taxi stand, the passenger pays him a single tunnel toll. Passengers using the other toll-charging tunnels such as the Aberdeen Tunnel and the Lion Rock Tunnel are charged a single toll because alternative toll-free routes are available for the taxis return journey.
4. A taxi which has crossed the harbour via the WHC may return via the same tunnel or the other two cross-harbour tunnels. In determining the charge for taxi passengers who choose to use the WHC, two options have been considered -
Option A - a charge which is two times the WHC toll, i.e. $60.
Option B - a charge which is the WHC toll plus the return toll on the CHT/EHC, i.e. $40.
5. In recommending Option B, the following factors have been considered by TAC -
- Option B would encourage more taxi passengers to use the relatively congestion-free WHC instead of CHT or EHC. This would help spread out cross-harbour traffic. According to traffic forecasts made by the Transport Department, the WHC will have spare capacity for some time after its opening in 1997, whereas both CHT and EHC will continue to be operating at full capacity during rush hours;
- from the public point of view, Option A would be to the advantage of taxi drivers but would not encourage taxi passengers to use the WHC; and
- after crossing the harbour via the WHC, a taxi driver can return to the other side in one of the following ways -
- with passengers picked up on street;
- with passengers picked up at cross harbour taxi stands;
- empty via the CHT/EHT; and
- empty via the WHC.
A taxi driver would have to top up the toll charge only if he returns via the WHC without any passenger.
The Trades Views
6. The taxi trade has objected to Option B giving the following reasons :
- most taxi drivers are keen to return to their operating base after crossing the harbour. Under Option B, drivers who fail to obtain a return hire would have little choice but to pay $20 out of pocket for using the WHC; otherwise they would have to use the more congested CHT and EHC. Trying to obtain return hires at the cross harbour taxi stands usually involves long waiting times. Under Option B, the opening of WHC would not improve their operating environment;
- under Option B, taxi drivers would be more likely to refuse hire for trips which use the WHC, especially towards the end of their shifts when they need to return to their operating base at a designated time;
- Option A is consistent with the charging arrangements for CHT and EHC, whereas Option B would be a first step towards the erosion of the existing charging arrangement; and
- the market would find its own level, since taxi passengers who find the $60 taxi toll for WHC too expensive could use CHT or EHC instead.
7. The trade argues that a taxi driver will have to pay $20 out of his own pocket if he fails to obtain a return hire and chooses to return via WHC. At present about 10% of taxis using CHT are empty; this percentage increases to about 14% if CHT and EHC are taken together. Cross-harbour taxi stands will also be provided at either end of the WHC where taxi drivers may pick up hires on the return journey. In addition, they may use two alternative routes, the toll charge for which is only $10.
8. After the opening of the WHC, TD will conduct surveys to ascertain changes in the traffic conditions on and near the three crossings, the utilisation and waiting times at the cross-harbour taxi stands, and the proportion of empty taxis crossing the harbour. The charging system will be re-examined if the survey results show such a need.
Last Updated on 21 August 1998