Hawker's question to cabby was valid

Char kway teow hawker Dominic Neo's attempt to atone for his vitriol against a taxi driver is commendable.

Hopefully, his offer to supply the driver with a lifetime's supply of free char kway teow as well as free dishes to the first 100 taxi drivers who show up at his stall is deemed acceptable by the driver in question and the cabby community (Remorseful hawker offers cabbies free char kway teow; Dec 7).

However, Mr Neo's question which irked many: "How can someone who doesn't know the route get a licence?" is not without merit, and would perhaps be better received if asked in the right tone. It is not unreasonable for commuters to expect taxi drivers to know how to go about doing their jobs.

Singapore is a small place. An average resident driving around the island once or twice will bring them through the same roads and thoroughfares several times with the same old landmarks. Surely, more is expected of taxi drivers.

London is 1,572 sq km and a London taxi driver is required to be able to decide routes immediately in response to a passenger's request or traffic conditions, rather than stopping to look at a map, relying on satellite navigation or asking a controller by radio.

In Singapore, I have never got into a taxi without the driver resorting to GPS or asking me for help with directions.

When I make suggestions, they often argue. It makes me question the training our taxi drivers receive.

The training London taxi drivers receive is acknowledged as the world's most demanding training course for cabbies, and applicants will usually need at least 12 "appearances" to pass, with the whole process usually averaging 34 months. Drivers who pass are expected to know 320 standard routes and their related landmarks.

In all, some 25,000 streets within a 10km radius of Charing Cross are covered, along with the major arterial routes throughout the rest of London. They are now even trained in how to deal with medical emergencies and terror attacks. On top of that, they are courteous and polite.

In view of this, the online vigilantism directed towards Mr Neo is unjustified. He may not have asked it in the best way, but his question is not invalid.

Michael Loh Toon Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2017, with the headline 'Hawker's question to cabby was valid'. Print Edition | Subscribe