Taxi giant ComfortDelGro to simplify fares

ComfortDelGro Corp said it will be taking up its proposal to revamp cab fares to the regulator. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - ComfortDelGro Corp, Singapore's largest taxi operator, is looking to revamp cab fares to make them simpler and flatter to win back customers lost to fast-growing private-hire fleets.

The company, which controls 16,821 taxis or 61 per cent of the market here, said that it will be taking up its proposal to the regulator.

Although taxi fares have been deregulated since 1998, operators are not completely free to formulate fares.

ComfortDelGro's chief executive of Taxi Business Yang Ban Seng said: "We're looking at how to simplify the fare structure to have a flatter fare."

There are close to 10 different flagdown rates, three different metered-fare structures, more than 10 kinds of surcharges as well as eight types of phone-booking charges in Singapore.

Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo said in 2013 that the government would look into simplifying the taxi fare structure, which she said was "complex and confusing".

But in 2015, she said the Land Transport Authority found that while commuters complained about the fare structure, they did not want fares to be levelled up if they were harmonised.

She said the government would leave it to operators to standardise fares.

Mr Yang said ComfortDelGro would want to implement "surge pricing" - a term ride-hailing operator Uber uses to describe fares which rise according to real-time demand, and which could exceed $140 at crunch times such as rail breakdowns.

"We would love to do surge pricing, but I don't think we're allowed to," Mr Yang said.

"At the end of the day, whatever structure we adopt, we must take care of the earnings of taxi-drivers."

He said the number of taxi trips have come down - not only because of competition from private-hire companies, but because of Singapore's expanding rail network and the economic slowdown.

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