LegCo’s Transport Panel chairman Frankie Yick Chi-ming has called on the government to curb its use of hired saloons and use more taxis after government figures revealed a soaring cost per hire car trip in 2020 and a sharp reduction in the number of hourly taxi hires.
The government made hundreds of saloon car hirings in 2020 at a cost of $3,340 per hire, up from $1,880 per hire in 2019 and $1,920 in 2018. Meanwhile hourly taxi hiring hit a five-year low, with just 1,237 hirings in 2020 at an average cost of $617.
“Taxi hire seems far too low to me,” says lawmaker Yick, citing that the government has made an average of just 1,409 trips per year in the last five years. “This represents just 0.00085% of the total taxi trips in a year,” he says. “I think our civil servants should use more taxis than saloons as it is far cheaper. That will help save some money for the taxpayers.”
Buildings Department made the most use of taxis in the last five years, according to government figures, with 4,366 hirings, against just 18 from Transport Department.
Figures also revealed a government expenditure of almost a billion dollars on truck hire in the last five years, with the government hiring an average 677 trucks a day since 2016. Around a third of this was for Hong Kong Post, and 30% for Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
Yick said the use of hire trucks may be more efficient than building a fleet. “A pool approach would be difficult to manage given the various locations of those departments, especially for their frontline operations,” he says.
A Government Logistics Department spokeswoman says staff are required to “choose the most appropriate mode of transport for the purpose of discharging duties, taking into account operational needs (such as locations, types of goods to be transported etc.) and cost effectiveness.”
From an environmental perspective, she says the government has now put in place mandatory vehicle emissions standards into commercial vehicle hiring contracts. “Apart from cars or goods vehicles, departments may use bicycles to meet their operational needs,” she says, pointing out that some mail operations in rural areas use bicycles.