Parliament: Completely level playing field for private-hire car operators not desirable, says Ng Chee Meng

Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng said in Parliament on July 11, 2016, that having a completely level playing field for taxis and private-hire cars may not be in the commuters' best interests.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng said in Parliament on July 11, 2016, that having a completely level playing field for taxis and private-hire cars may not be in the commuters' best interests.PHOTO: GRAB

SINGAPORE - If the taxi industry wants private-hire operators to compete on a completely level playing field, then they might have to contend with Uber and Grab drivers being allowed to pick up street hails.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng said in Parliament on Monday (July 11) that 80 per cent of taxi-driver trips are street hails.

"If you completely level the playing field, it means that the private-hire cars will have street hail privileges as well," he said. "This will not bring necessarily the outcomes we desire."

Mr Ng said this in response to questions from Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah on whether there has been "any measurement to show that actually Uber and GrabCar bring positive impact to our commuters".

"If not, then why should we have them in Singapore, and create so much unhappiness among the taxi drivers?" she asked.

Mr Ng said: "We follow industry practices as best as possible."

"For commuters' interests, if you level completely the playing field, and Uber, Grab and taxi companies become homogeneous, then we will not be able to have the innovative disruption that private-hire car brings to the industry," he noted.

"So in the morning peak hours where we have inadequate supply of full-time taxi-drivers, many of the commuters' interests are served because there's supplementary drivers that come in the form of Uber and Grab, and these are mostly part-time drivers."

To a call by Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Ang Hin Kee for three separate licences for taxi-drivers, private-hire drivers and limousine drivers, Mr Ng said: "This was actually considered in our initial original design of the system. So it is possible."

But the minister said the decision to have two categories was taken to prevent the system becoming too unwieldy.

"This is part of the whole review to make it not too cumbersome, with too many regulations, for the drivers to jump through too many hoops," Mr Ng noted.

"But it's early days yet.... It will take a year to implement, so we will take your views into consideration."