Phil mentioned this strange story on Friday, and BWG has followed up today. In brief, a Canadian teacher was arrested after being accused of leaving a taxi without paying. The taxi driver and two KCRC staff pursued him from University station to Fo Tan station, where he was apparently ejected from the train by a group of passengers, arrested and then released.
University is a rather strange station. There is no shopping centre, and there are no residential tower blocks, and there are two quite separate exits - one for the Chinese University, and the other to a transport interchange which mainly serves people living in Ma On Shan and the adjoining area. Taxi drivers queue up at the rank outside the station in the expectation of earning a higher than average fare (normally taking KCR passengers up to Ma On Shan).
The agreed facts in this case are that the teacher got in to the taxi outside the station and asked to be taken to Tai Wai, and then changed his mind. This made the taxi driver unhappy and an argument ensued. The teacher says he threw $15 on the seat, the taxi driver denies this. From the teacher's account in the SCMP:
The argument started when he decided to get out of the cab after travelling less than 100 metres, he said. "I was in a rush. I decided the train was going to be faster. So I told the taxi driver I wanted to get out. He started calling me a crazy man.
"I threw the money onto the front seat because he was yelling at me and got out." The driver hounded him into the railway station yelling at other passengers that he was a fare evader, he said.
"The crowd started pushing and shoving me, some KCRC staff grabbed me, they surrounded me like I was a thug. It was a nightmare.
This is all a bit puzzling. Who in their right minds take a taxi from outside University KCR station to within a few yards of Tai Wai station? Trains run between these two stations run every 2-3 minutes, it takes less than 10 minutes and it costs less than HK$5. A taxi would cost ten times as much and could easily take quite a bit longer. I totally understand him thinking that the KCR would be quicker, but why did he only realize that after he had jumped in the taxi?
The taxi driver would have been annoyed because he had likely been waiting at the taxi rank for a passenger, expecting to earn HK$50+ for the fare. Even if he got the minimum HK$15 fare from the teacher, he would then have had to join the back of the queue and wait for another customer. It's a fact of life that a significant number of Hong Kong taxi drivers do show their displeasure when something like this happens. However, this does seem to have been a rather extreme example!
Of course, later this year the new Ma On Shan KCR extension is opening. It runs to Tai Wai where there will be an interchange with the KCR East Rail (to Hung Hom, and soon to East Tsim Sha Tsui). When that happens, University station will presumably become significant less busy, and far fewer taxi drivers will be queuing for customers. Also, one Canadian teacher will have a much easier journey to work.