Singapore Budget 2015: More taxis on roads during peak hours

SINGAPORE - Over 1,500 more taxis now ply the roads during peak hours, compared to two years ago.

This comes after taxi availability standards were introduced two years ago to boost service levels, Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo told Parliament on Wednesday.

The latest standards require taxi operators to have 85 per cent of their fleets on the roads during morning and evening peak periods, and to have the same percentage of these fleets cover a distance of at least 250km a day on weekdays.

87 per cent of all taxis are now on the roads during peak hours, more than the 82 per cent two years ago, Mrs Teo added during the debate on her ministry's budget.

"Rather than expanding the fleet much more, the focus should be on improving the efficiency of our existing taxi fleet," she said, adding that despite initial scepticism, the taxi availablity measures have had some effect.

Mrs Teo said there is also less empty cruising than before by taxis. Taxis on the roads are occupied 68 per cent of the time now, compared to 65 per cent last year.

Drivers are also earning more, Mrs Teo said, noting that last year, their average income went up by about 6 per cent from the year before.

"In other words, the taxi availability standards have led to each taxi being driven more, and drivers are also earning more," she added.

As for taxi fares, Mrs Teo noted that while some commuters are concerned by the complex fare structure, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) found that commuters did not want fares to be levelled up if they were harmonised.

Drivers, on the other hand, wanted them levelled up, as did taxi companies.

The Government will take a balanced approach, Mrs Teo said, and may leave fares be for now. Taxi fares have been deregulated since 1998.

But the Government will see whether it should step in to mandate standardisation of the fare structure, she said, and LTA plans to announce details in due course.

The fare structures may not be as simple as some may like, she added, but said taxi fares are generally competitive, comparable to those in Hong Kong and lower than other leading cities.

"This should be what matters most," she said.