New cab-sharing app fails to get LTA nod

Pair Taxi founder Andy Zheng.
Pair Taxi founder Andy Zheng. PHOTO: ST FILE

A taxi-sharing app has ceased operation barely a month after it was launched here.

Pair Taxi, which matches up to three passengers to a cab, has failed to secure a certificate of registration from the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

GrabTaxi and Hailo are now the only taxi app providers which have been granted the permit to operate here, the LTA announced yesterday. The permits are valid for three years from Dec 1.

The newly enacted Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Act dictates that all such services with more than 20 participating taxis be registered with the LTA.

"Existing service providers which were already operating before Sept 1 are allowed to continue operating without a certificate of registration," the LTA said. "If these existing service providers had applied to register with LTA before Dec 1, they will be allowed to operate without a certificate of registration until their application has been processed."

The LTA said Pair Taxi's fare model "did not meet the fare-charging conditions stipulated in the regulatory framework".

Pair Taxi founder Andy Zheng told The Straits Times that the firm suspended operations at 5pm on Monday - the day it was notified by the LTA of its decision. He said: "We are working on understanding more from LTA regarding Pair Taxi's application not being approved.

"We believe that filling empty seats in taxis during peak hours is a more sustainable solution."

The LTA launched a Share-a-Cab initiative in 1997 but it failed. While that programme was free of charge, Pair Taxi's app - which matches passengers whose destinations are near each other - requires each user to pay a taxi booking charge of $3.30 or $3.50.

In its announcement yesterday, the LTA said it was still processing applications from UberTaxi, MoobiTaxi, Karhoo and ConnexTaxi.

"As Karhoo and ConnexTaxi are new providers which had not started operations before Sept 1, they must receive the certification of registration before operating." It said firms which operate without permits face a fine of up to $10,000, a jail term of up to six months, or both.

Uber spokesman Karun Arya seemed unperturbed by the LTA's announcement. "It's simply a status update to the media on the applications of various companies," he said. "The first batch have been approved. Ours, along with others, is still being processed."

Meanwhile, the LTA said radiophone taxi-booking operators Taman Jurong Radiophone Taxi Services and Boon Lay Garden Radio Taxi Services have also been issued certificates of registration.

Christopher Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'New cab-sharing app fails to get LTA nod'. Print Edition | Subscribe