CCTV in cabs to improve image of HK cabbies

HONG KONG • Looking to improve public perception of cabbies, a newly founded taxi group is introducing 10 CCTV-equipped cabs onto Hong Kong's roads next week.

Hong Kong's cab drivers are faced with an image crisis over their unfriendly attitude and misconduct including overcharging, taking unnecessarily long routes and cherry-picking passengers.

Their poor reputation has prompted the government to consider a proposed premium taxi scheme under which 600 premium taxis would be introduced through franchises, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Fearing that their livelihood could take a hit, the Association of Taxi Industry Development - formed by taxi firm owners and involving 5,000 taxis - has announced the CCTV cab project as way of ensuring drivers are on their best behaviour.

"We hope that within one year there will be over 2,000 taxis joining this scheme and that eventually all 18,000 taxis will join us," said Mr Chan Man Keung, the spokesman of the group.

He said the group hopes to gain government support for the CCTV programme after a review of the trial scheme in a few months. The data recorded by the cameras can be used as evidence to resolve disputes between drivers and passengers.

The cost of installing a camera in a vehicle has been pegged at over HK$1,000 (S$176) and the industry group hopes that the government will step in to subsidise this cost. But a Transport Department spokesman said that the government had no plans to sponsor the project and that it was up to individual taxi owners to make the decision.

That hasn't deterred the new industry group. "Eventually we hope the government will introduce legislation to make the CCTV system mandatory for taxis," said Mr Chan. Another association spokesman, Mr Ng Kam Wah, said he hoped the move will result in the premium taxi scheme being shelved, reported the SCMP.

To address privacy concerns, labels in both English and Chinese will be displayed in the vehicles and drivers will inform passengers of the CCTV. The data will be encrypted, with access granted only with the association's consent. After one month, the data will be erased.

To facilitate the resolution of disputes, the association plans to set up a complaints hotline .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'CCTV in cabs to improve image of HK cabbies'. Print Edition | Subscribe