Licensing for point-to-point transport services postponed to October

The framework covers street-hail, ride-hail and carpool services. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A planned regulatory framework which promises to level the playing field between taxis and private-hire cars will be delayed again.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said Friday (May 29) that although application from operators is now open, the point-to-point (P2P) transport regulatory framework will take effect in October instead of September.

The framework covers street-hail, ride-hail and carpool services. It applies to operators which have 800 or more vehicles on their platforms.

Three licences will be rolled out, kicking off with a ride-hail service operator licence for operators such as Grab and Gojek; and a carpool service operator licence which targets carpool operators specifically.

A third licence is for cab companies. But the LTA said existing taxi operators will be automatically transitioned to the street-hail service operator licence. It said it will follow up with cab firms on details of this transition.

Plans for a P2P regulatory framework has been in the works for at least two years now. The P2P Passenger Transport Industry Act was passed in August last year, and the framework was to take effect by June this year.

But in February this year, the LTA announced that the licensing regime would be postponed to September because the Covid-19 pandemic had wreaked havoc on the transport industry.

Since then, operators have asked for a further delay. Hence the LTA said implementation will now be in October instead of September.

Licence applications will close on July 13, and results will be announced by October. Each licence will be valid for three years, except the street-hail licence for taxi firms that will be valid for 10 years.

More information on the licence application process is available on LTA's website.

Meanwhile, the Taxi Availability standards, which require taxi operators to maintain at least 80 per cent of their taxis on the road during peak hours, will be removed next month.

These standards were supposed to be removed when the new P2P framework is implemented. But with the pandemic having affected demand drastically, the LTA decided to do away with them earlier.

However, it said taxi operators are still required to meet safety standards, such as accident rate, offence rate, and vehicle first-inspection passing rate.

In light of the challenging economic conditions, LTA said it will continue to offer discounts on the renewal of the taxi driver's vocational licence till year-end.

All current players with at least 800 cars each are expected to apply for the licences, including Grab - possibly the largest fleet operator here.

A Grab spokesman said the company will apply for both the ride-hail and car-pool licences. A spokesman said: "We believe there is a role for regulation to ensure higher safety standards in the industry, while facilitating a fair, open and contestable market that encourages innovation among the different players in order to better serve the needs of the Singapore public."

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