Cab operators SMRT, Premier and Prime fined for falling short of taxi availability standards

A passenger boarding an SMRT taxi. PHOTO: ST FILE
SMRT was one of three taxi companies that was fined by LTA for falling short of taxi availability standards. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Three cab companies have been fined by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for falling short of taxi availability standards, with the island's smallest operator Prime being handed the heftiest penalty of $108,990.

SMRT was fined $21,396 for not having the required proportion of taxis meet a daily minimum mileage in February, while Premier was fined $12,027 for falling short of the same yardstick in August.

Prime, which has a fleet of just over 850 cabs, was fined a total of $108,990 for lapses between January and August - for not meeting the minimum mileage requirement and also not having the bulk of its fleet on the roads during the peak hours.

The taxi availability framework, implemented by the LTA in 2013, is aimed at increasing the numbers of taxis on the roads during rush hours and ensuring commuters can get a ride.

In a nine-month report card released on Monday, the LTA said that 91 per cent of taxis are on the roads during peak periods, up from 89 per cent in 2014.

"This means that about 2,000 more taxis are available for hire by commuters during peak hours," the LTA said.

Between January and September 2015,the percentage of taxis with a minimum mileage of 250km has also increased to 81 per cent from 80 per cent in 2014.

However, the daily taxi utilisation rate, or the proportion of total taxi mileage under hire, saw a slight dip from 68 per cent in 2014 to 66 per cent in the first nine months of this year.

But it is still higher than 2013's 65 per cent, suggesting that there is "less empty cruising than before", LTA noted.

Only Comfort consistently met all the taxi availability standards so far in 2015.

Under the framework, taxi companies have to meet two main standards. One, they must ensure that 85 per cent and 75 per cent of their fleet clock a daily mileage of 250km on weekdays and weekends respectively.

Here, CityCab fell short in February, while TransCab missed the mark in both January and February. SMRT, Premier and Prime have not been able to hit the standard in 2015.

The second standard taxi operators have to adhere to is ensuring that the bulk of its fleets are plying the roads during the peak hours. The benchmarks vary according to the time of the day - for example, between 7am and 11am, and 5pm to 11pm, the percentage of taxis on the roads must be 85 per cent. Between 6am to 7am, and 11pm to 12 midnight, it is 60 per cent.

In the first nine months of 2015, Comfort, CityCab and SMRT consistently met these standards, while TransCab, Premier and Prime fell short to different degrees.

Under the framework, financial penalties are applied using more lenient standards based on 2014's requirements.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng said he has asked the LTA to maintain the current taxi availability standards, which are generally revised upwards annually, for next year.

This is in light of the current Government review on private-car hire apps, following feedback from taxi drivers that such services were not competing fairly.

In a letter to Mr Ng on Monday, the National Taxi Association submitted a list of recommendations for the industry,including a review of the availability standards.

The association said the standards have "led to taxi operators investing in manpower and resources to track such requirements, which resulted in higher operating costs and inevitably, higher rental and fuel costs for taxi drivers".

It said that consumers today can provide feedback through user reviews and have more access to cabs through third-party booking apps.

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