LCQ16: Hire Car Permit - Tour Service
Hong Kong (HKSAR) - Following is a question by the Hon Yiu Si-wing and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (November 29):
Under the law, the Commissioner for Transport may for the purpose of authorising the use of a private car for the carriage of clients of a designated travel agent, issue in respect of the private car a Hire Car Permit - Tour Service (Permit). Some members of the tourism industry have recently relayed to me that the Transport Department (TD) takes a very long time to vet and approve applications for that type of Permits, and there has been a case in which the interval between the submission of all the information required and the granting of the Permit (vetting and approval time) spanned 18 months, which is unacceptable. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of new Permit applications received and approved by TD in the past five years; the average and longest vetting and approval time taken in those cases; the number of those cases the vetting and approval time of which exceeded six months, as well as the general reasons why a longer vetting and approval time is needed for some cases;
(2) given that under the existing procedure, Permit applications are first considered by the Contract Hire Car Permits Selection Board and a decision is then made by the Commissioner for Transport based on the Board's recommendations, whether (i) there was any delay in the past year caused by the failure of any Board member to reply to the Secretary of the Board on time, and (ii) TD has set a performance pledge on the time taken by the Board to consider Permit applications; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether TD will review the existing mechanism and streamline the vetting and approval procedure for Permit applications with a view to shortening the vetting and approval time; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Hon Yiu Si-wing is as follows:
(1) and (2) In accordance with the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374D)(the Regulations), the Commissioner for Transport (the Commissioner) may issue to an applicant a Hire Car Permit - Tour Service only if he/she is of the opinion that the type of hire car service specified in the application is "reasonably required" as stipulated under section 14(3)(b) of the Regulations. The Commissioner also needs to consider a host of relevant factors as required under section 15(2) of the Regulations, including that the applicant must be the registered owner of the private car if the applicant is a tourist agent; if not, the applicant must be the owner of the private car providing tour hire car service for a tour agent and has obtained written approval; the nature and availability of existing facilities provided by the applicant for visitors to tour Hong Kong; and that the applicant has the means and experience to enable him/her to provide visitors to Hong Kong with a suitable standard of tour hire car service. An applicant must provide sufficient information of the above items to support an application.
Upon receipt of an application, the Transport Department (TD) will first check whether the applicant has submitted the relevant documents. If not, the TD will follow up with the applicant. After receipt of the required documents, the TD will, where necessary, request the applicant to provide additional supporting documents (such as travel agency's contract/agreement/recommendation letter, travel itinerary, the travel agency's records on using cars with hire car permits), and will contact the applicant to seek clarification on the relevant documents. The information and supporting documents submitted in each application vary, and the time required for an applicant to submit documents or respond to the TD also differs. More complicated cases will need a longer processing time.
Upon obtaining all the relevant documents and completing assessment on an application, the TD will submit the application to the Contract Hire Car Permits Selection Board (the Board) for deliberation. The Board will make a recommendation to the Commissioner, who will then decide whether to approve or reject the application.
The time required by the Board to consider an application depends on the complexity of the application, and whether any member of the Board requests the TD to follow up on the application, for example, further asking for supplementary information or clarification of the application. In general, it takes around one month for the Board to process an application.
From 2013 to 2017 (as of October 31), the TD has received a total of 80 new applications for Hire Car Permit - Tour Service, among which 66 have been vetted and 24 approved. The average vetting and approval time was about six months from the date when the TD obtained all the required information/supporting documents of the application. Among the 66 applications, 22 took more than six months (most of which took around seven months) to process. The longest processing time was 16 months (involving one case only) while the shortest only took two months. Overall speaking, cases requiring a longer processing time were the more complicated ones, or the ones which required the applicants to provide supplementary information and clarification.
Since the information and supporting documents submitted in each application vary, the processing time of the TD for each application is different. Therefore, the TD has not set any performance pledge on the vetting and approval of applications. Generally speaking, the TD would complete the vetting and approval procedure within approximately four to six months after an applicant has submitted all the information.
(3) The TD understands the trade's expectation for shortening the vetting and approval time. It reviews the existing mechanism from time to time, and has implemented since 2015 enhancement measures with the "Hire Car Service Hiring Record" form converted into an e-fillable one so that applicants can input the trip data directly online. Applicants are encouraged to submit the forms by email with a view to shortening the processing time. The TD has also reviewed the current procedure to explore ways to expedite the processing of applications, including flexible deployment of manpower to handle the applications.
In addition, the TD has rolled out a series of new measures on hire car permits starting from February 2017 to enhance the vetting and approval system and regulatory regime for hire car service. Measures include the introduction of an optional "pre-application assessment" for any party who is interested in applying for hire car permits. Interested parties may make a request for "pre-application assessment" without the need to submit private car registration documents. This allows applicants to purchase vehicles only after knowing that their applications are likely to be approved. Such a measure provides greater flexibility and higher certainty for persons interested in applying for hire car permits, and will facilitate new market entrants. It also enables the TD and the Board to conduct advance examination of potential formal applications, thereby shortening the time needed for formal vetting and approval.
Published on: 2017-11-29
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