Free rides for athletes and officials during SEA Games

Free rides for athletes and officials to ensure they get to venues on time

Athletes and officials at this year's SEA Games will be offered free cab rides to get around Singapore, with organisers guaranteeing them at least 300 journeys a day.

The SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) is outsourcing taxi shuttle services to cab operators here, asking interested parties to provide a fleet that can complete 10,000 trips between May 18 and June 22 this year.

The Singsoc and Land Transport Authority (LTA) predict that about 10,000 SEA Games participants and officials will use the services over the 33 days before, during and after the Games, which will take place between June 5 and 16.

The regional sports event, which was last held on Singapore soil in 1993, will involve more than 7,000 athletes and officials from 11 countries.

Organisers are hoping to avoid a repeat of the incident during the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi when Singapore's 4x200m men's freestyle relay team was disqualified for arriving late at the competition venue.

According to tender documents obtained by The Straits Times, cabs must pick up SEA Games delegates and athletes within 10 minutes.

Both Singsoc and the LTA told The Straits Times that taxis "are a cost-effective and efficient mode of transport, especially for small groups".

Similar transport arrangements were made during previous major events. The taxi services will supplement buses and cars that will transport participants and officials around.

Singsoc and the LTA said that taxis will not be booked for a full-day period or put on standby during the Games, and operators must still ensure an adequate supply of cabs to cater for public demand.

The taxi firms that win the contract will still be expected to meet the LTA's taxi availability and quality of service standards.

"These taxi companies would also need to manage their own resources to meet both regulatory and contractual obligations," the two bodies added.

This means the taxi companies must still ensure that 85 per cent of their fleets are on the road during the peak hours from 7am to 11am and 5pm to 11pm, and clock at least 250km daily on weekdays.

ComfortDelGro, the biggest cab firm here with a fleet of more than 12,000 taxis, is likely to be the only one capable of handling the workload.

A spokesman for the company said that it "never ever comments on competitive tenders".

Ms Ellen Lee, an MP for Sembawang GRC and president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association, said that providing free cab rides will give athletes and officials peace of mind that they will be on time for their competitions.

"Sometimes, competition venues or timings may change at the last minute and we want to ensure that players and officials do not have any excuse for being late and pin the blame on organisers," she said.

Singapore's fastest woman, Shanti Pereira, who competed in last year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, said the more personalised and convenient cab services will mean that athletes do not have to stick to specific bus shuttle times.

The 17-year-old, who is likely to represent Singapore in the women's 200m for now, said: "We don't have to be bussed together as a team when our events are held at different times and hence will get more time to rest."

jermync@sph.com.sg