Changes to cab fares around the corner, simpler fare structure expected

Taxis at Plaza Singapura shopping mall in 2013. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Taxis at Plaza Singapura shopping mall in 2013. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Changes to cab fares are around the corner, with industry players expecting higher flagdown rates, bigger interval jumps but pared down surcharges.

According to a Zello-based taxi-driver chat group, Cabbie Korner, most cabs will have a standardised flagdown fare of $3.80, instead of rates ranging from $3.20 to $5 today.

Distance- and time-based interval jumps will be a uniform 30 cents, instead of the 22, 30 and 33 cents in place today.

Peak-hour surcharges will be dropped, but the midnight surcharge will remain, and location surcharges standardised.

The group also expects a flat monthly Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) levy of $150, regardless of the number of times a cabby crosses an ERP gantry.

At last count, there are close to 10 different flagdown fares, three different metered fare structures, and more than 10 different types of surcharges.

This prompted Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo to declare 12 months ago that the Government would look into simplifying the taxi fare structure.

The Straits Times understands the process has been slow because taxi fares have been deregulated since 1998.

This meant there was no central body coordinating changes and that the taxi companies were free to change fare structures.

Also, changes are likely to make certain groups of cabbies and commuters unhappy.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said nothing is on the table yet. "We are still studying and discussing with stakeholders the harmonisation of the taxi fare structure," an LTA spokesman said.

"The issue is complicated as the fare structure fundamentally reflects the different rental costs of different taxis. Different stakeholders, ranging from commuters, taxi-drivers to taxi companies, have different interests."

But the industry is certain that changes are afoot. "I smell something," said the managing director of one taxi firm. "We're all waiting for Comfort(DelGro) to make the first move. As the biggest player, it has to make the first move."

ComfortDelGro Corp said it does not comment on fare issues.

Cabbies have mixed reactions to the possible fare review.

Veteran taxi driver Victor Yow, 68, said: "To be honest, I'm quite happy with what's in place now.

"But do away with ERP charges. They are the reason why it's hard to get a cab at Lucky Plaza but easy to get one at Far East Plaza, why there are few cabs at Takashimaya but tons at Ion Orchard."

As for the typical dearth of cabs just before a surcharge kicks in, Mr Yow said: "That's normal."

He told The Straits Times that it is difficult to standardise fares because of the different rental rates levied for different cabs.

National Taxi Association adviser Ang Hin Kee said if fares are to be simplified, then rental and other charges levied on cabbies must be simplified too.

He noted that the association had proposed a fixed monthly charge for ERP.

Commuters feel differently. Financial consultant Lynn Chua, 42, finds the myriad of fares and surcharges "too confusing".

"It'll be good to have a standardised flagdown fare," the regular cab commuter said. "All cabs are the same, whether it's a (Hyundai) Sonata or Renault.

"Comfort level is the same, and they still take us to our destinations."

christan@sph.com.sg