SINGAPORE - From Sunday (May 1), commuters crossing the Causeway will be able to tap close to 240 taxis that have been approved to ferry passengers across the land border between Singapore and Malaysia.
A new paint job for the parking spaces at Ban San Street taxi terminal in Rochor is a sign of what is to come, after two years during which it has stood empty.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in response to queries that it has approved cross-border taxi permits for 156 Malaysian taxi drivers as at April 22.
Meanwhile, Singapore-Johor Taxi Operators' Association chairman Teng Kok Tai, 71, told The Straits Times that the 80 Singaporean cabbies in his association have got their permits approved by Malaysia's Agensi Pengangkutan Awam Darat or Land Public Transport Agency in English.
LTA said commuters from Singapore who wish to travel via cross-border taxis may board one at the Ban San Street terminal, or call the ComfortDelGro Taxi, Trans-Cab, Strides Taxi or Prime Taxi hotlines.
Under current laws, foreign-registered vehicles are not allowed to provide cross-border passenger transport services for hire without a public service vehicle licence.
This includes private-hire cars, as well as informal taxi operators and paid carpooling services, which began touting on social media and messaging platforms such as Facebook and Telegram after it was announced that land borders between Singapore and Malaysia would be reopened fully to vaccinated travel on April 1.
Those caught providing illegal paid cross-border passenger services can be fined up to $3,000 and jailed for up to six months. The vehicles used may also be forfeited.
Only licensed Singapore cross-border taxis can cross into Malaysia, and they can go only to the Larkin taxi terminal in Johor Bahru, where they can wait for passengers going to Singapore. Similarly, Malaysian taxis require a permit to cross into Singapore, and they can go only to the Ban San Street terminal.
Before Covid-19, cross-border taxis charged fixed fares, with a trip from Ban San Street to Larkin costing $48 per taxi. Mr Teng said his members will charge the same fares from May 1, but the association has applied to Singapore's Public Transport Council (PTC) to raise its fares to $15 each person, or $60 per taxi.
The PTC said it received an e-mail from the association on April 26 informing the council about its plan to adjust fares. But under a regulatory framework that took effect in October 2020, those operating Singapore-Johor taxi services are required to lodge such plans at least 28 days before making the fare changes, the PTC said.
They also need to publicise the changes at least seven days beforehand.
This means the association will likely be able to raise fares only on May 24 or later.
Said a PTC spokesman: "We are in the process of clarifying the plan and procedures with the association."
Mr Teng, speaking in Mandarin, said the cabbies in his association all hope that fares will be raised given soaring inflation and rising fuel costs.
Coupled with the time spent in jams at the Causeway, the low fares have also made the cross-border route unattractive, said the ComfortDelGro cabby.
While he is glad to be able to resume his business on May 1, Mr Teng said he is taking a wait-and-see approach for the big day. "If there is a big jam, it will be difficult."
Cross-border bus services will also resume from May 1, after they were either rerouted or stopped operating in March 2020.
With the resumption, Malaysian bus operator Causeway Link said on Friday that it will end a shuttle bus service between the checkpoints in Woodlands and Johor Bahru that it had started on April 1.
The company, which is restarting four cross-border services, CW1, CW2, CW5 and CW7, has also raised fares. It said in a Facebook post on Thursday that it made every effort to avoid a fare hike, but rising operational costs made that impossible.
Trips starting from Kranji, Queen Street, Newton Circus and Tuas Link will now cost between $2.60 and $4.80. Trips starting from Woodlands Checkpoint will cost $2.60, while trips beginning from Tuas Checkpoint will cost $4.50.
Singapore private bus operator Transtar Travel has also raised the fares for its TS1, TS3, TS6 and TS8 bus services by $1.
The PTC said the bus services run by private bus operators are operated on a commercial basis, and fares are determined by the respective operators.
Meanwhile, services 160, 170, 170X and 950 – which are operated by public transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT and also restarting from May 1 – follow the current distance fare structure of basic bus and train services in Singapore, PTC added.