Not so much of a bargain
Mr Jam

Van blanc

The SCMP reports that new 5-seater taxis are to be introduced in the New Territories (subscription required). 

Battery-powered seven-seater vans will soon be introduced across the New Territories as a more comfortable alternative to the usual taxis, with the same fares, at least initially. 

The chairman of the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group, Lai Ming-hung, said three taxi companies had invested up to HK$60 million to buy 20 modified seven-seat Toyota vans, which will be introduced as a pilot scheme in June. 

They are an attempt to counter business taken away by illegal van services operating out of the airport.

The so-called "vans" (I'd call them "people carriers") are a good option for travelling to and from the airport, being both cheaper and more spacious than normal taxis.  It's bizarre that they are illegal, but the taxi business is highly regulated in Hong Kong, with fares fixed by the government, and taxi licences are a tradeable commodity.   

The law says that taxi drivers cannot offer discounts, but they can give a discount if a passenger asks for one. Of course, it's not easy to negotiate a discount when you jump in a cab, but it is possible to order a taxi by phone and get a discount of 20-40%.   

In London, black taxis are similar to Hong Kong taxis (highly regulated and with fares fixed by the government), but there are also a large number of private hire vehicles (usually called "mini cabs").  You have to book by phone, but prices are not regulated, and they are almost always much cheaper than black taxis.  There was a time when they were often rather seedy, with elderly and dirty cars and dodgy drivers, but now the industry is more regulated and standards are much higher, with a range of different vehicles available, including the large "people carriers".  If you want to go from Heathrow to another part of London, it's a good idea to book a mini-cab rather than paying a small fortune for a black taxi.    

One can only hope that common sense prevails, and Hong Kong adopts a similar system, legalising the so-called vans.  Of course, normal taxis should be allowed to compete by offering discounted fares for longer journeys booked by phone.  Then everyone's a winner.

Comments

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weenie

I had no idea those vans were illegal.

Ok, I should have had a clue when on one occasion many years ago, there was nowhere for me to sit and I was rolling about in the back with my luggage...

Rehash

Wrong again. The SCMP never reports anything in the sense of it being a piece of real news. They rehash the Chinese press or the Govt web sites.

Josh69

Far from being 2nd best, I find London mini-cabs are *better* than black cabs.

The average black cab is OK, but I've encountered a sizable proportion of drivers who are really surly and give the impression that they are doing you a massive favour by bothering to pick you up. I've also got into a couple of black cabs where the meter has already been running when I got in and I've had to ask the driver to reset it. I avoid black cabs where possible.

In contrast (although I admit that 95% of my taxi journeys in London other than trips to the airport are in the evening when totally trashed), I've always found mini-cab drivers friendly and honest.

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