Taxi fares in Singapore poised to rise in March

Market leader ComfortDelGro has signalled to the authorities its intention to adjust flag-down and distance rates. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - First, bus and train fares. And now, taxi fares are poised to rise - as early as March.

The Straits Times understands that market leader ComfortDelGro, which controls 60 per cent of the total taxi fleet of around 15,000 cabs in the Republic, has signalled to the authorities its intention to adjust flag-down and distance rates.

The Public Transport Council, which has to be informed of fare changes, has yet to respond to queries from ST filed early Thursday (Jan 27).

Currently, taxi flag-down fares are mostly $3.70 for diesel taxis and $3.90 for petrol-electric hybrids. And for every 400m thereafter up to 10km, the meter goes up by 22 cents. Beyond 10km, the distance fare rises by 22 cents every 350m.

At its last adjustment in 2011, ComfortDelGro raised the flag-down fare of most cabs by 20 cents and distance fares by two cents per fare band. The planned adjustment is expected to be similar.

As has been the practice, other taxi companies - Trans-Cab, SMRT, Premier and Prime - will adjust fares after the market leader.

The manager of a smaller player said: "We are waiting to see what Comfort does. Costs are still going up. And the $5 rental rebate from the Government will end soon. Drivers will have a harder time."

He was referring to the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund, which was extended recently. In December, cabbies and private-hire drivers received a $10 payout per vehicle per day, and a $5 payout per vehicle per day in January.

Sources reckon the Government could extend the relief further, as economic and social activities have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

But independent of this, the planned fare adjustment is also said to be in response to rising fuel prices. Fuel pump prices have been rising steadily since mid-2020 as demand for oil products rises in tandem with world economies emerging from the pandemic. Since then, the most popular 95-octane petrol has risen by 50 cents a litre.

ComfortDelGro was not available for comment.

Commuters are divided about the prospect of having to pay more.

Retiree Lawrence Seow, 61, said: "To be fair, an increase is justified. Because of inflation, everything has gone up. If I find that taxis are too expensive, I'll take Grab, or the bus. Or I cycle."

But lawyer Bryan Tan, 50, said even though posted fares have not risen for some time, the final fare he pays has increased.

"There is surge pricing, for instance, while before there was none," Mr Tan said.

"Since the arrival of private-hire, taxi companies have followed some of their pricing. Now that taxi fares are going up, I expect private-hire companies to make some adjustments too."

Cabbies, of course, welcomed the anticipated increase.

Veteran cabby Tony Pang, 73, who is now a relief driver three times a week, said: "It is a good move. More people are taking cabs now. And come Feb 1, when unvaccinated drivers cannot drive any more, there will be fewer cabs and more business for us."

Public transport fares rose by up to four cents per trip on Dec 26.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.