Regulate chauffeured services with light touch

While I agree with senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan that chauffeured services should be regulated, any regulation should not be as rigid as the taxi industry ("Back to the days of 'pirate' taxis?"; June 25).

With refined guidelines, such parallel services offer better choices to commuters.

If we analyse the nature of the taxi business from the perspective of commuters, it is no more than a business transaction, wherein trips are charged according to the taxi meter. The deal is between the cabby and passenger for a convenient, safe and comfortable ride from point A to point B.

It is imperative in this business model that trips be made safely and at an appropriate price; moreover, every kilometre on the road should generate revenue for the cabby.

Every cab should deliver value-for-money service, attracting customers while generating income on the road. Competitors have to innovate and field new ideas for faster and cheaper services, in order to suit the needs and gain the trust of customers.

The key to the taxi business is, thus, reliable quality service, rather than quantity of the fleet.

A company with a large fleet may not necessarily be able to provide higher levels of service than a small company with fewer cabs, or even a single taxi owned by an individual - Hong Kong is a good example of this model, in which nearly 90 per cent of taxis are cabby-owned.

Unsatisfactory taxi services are the underlying reason for the emergence of competing alternatives. The prevailing chauffeured services with easy booking and reasonable prices are innovative and productive, complementing or even supplanting street hail services.

Granted, it is necessary to comply with basic safety and security requirements, such as adequate insurance coverage, and restricting such operations to qualified drivers with prominent photo and licence identifications. Moreover, vehicles should have a uniform colour "top" and a fare meter.

Nevertheless, it stands to follow that the barriers to entry for chauffeured services should be less onerous, so as to rein in unsatisfactory taxi services by way of free-market mechanisms.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi