It seems like the taxi drivers got it the hardest – with the recent fare hikes and now, the ERP rate hike. If we can still recall about the S$40.60 taxi ride, it may or may not be an everyday event now, but the sad truth is, people will be paying more and more for taxi (is this a sad thing?) and taxi drivers might get lesser and lesser business (this seems more like a sad thing). However, my friends who have other friends who take cabs regularly said that it’s rather hard for them not to take taxis anymore and that even if they have to pay S$50 a trip, they will.

Lucky for the taxi drivers – although I am not sure how long they can sustain for. I thought someone mentioned something about integrating taxis back into the public transport system as a premium service. However, unless the level of service of buses and trains go up, it’s unlikely this kind of ideal situation will arise.

TAXI drivers are concerned their livelihoods will be hit by plans for more electronic road pricing (ERP) gantries and the higher rates levied to pass through them.

Cabbies now add the cost of ERP charges incurred to their passengers’ fares, and are anxious that commuters will be turned off from taking taxis because of higher ERP charges.

Already, December’s hike in surcharges, flagdown and metered fares have dampened demand for taxis.

Comfort cab driver Azman Mohamad, 45, said: ‘Passengers are complaining about having to pay to go anywhere. Higher ERP charges mean higher fares, so I won’t be surprised if they will think twice about taking a cab.’

The Taxi Operators Associations (TOA), which represents drivers from the six taxi groups, yesterday urged taxi companies to help their drivers.

In particular, it asked taxi companies to consider giving ERP reimbursements to drivers who do not pick up a fare within 15 minutes of passing a gantry.

ComfortDelGro, the largest cab company here, already does this and gives out more than 200 reimbursements a day.

But other cab companies are likely to find this hard to copy because they do not have the technology in place to do it.

Premier Taxis managing director Lim Chong Boo said he too is concerned about the effects of the new ERP pricing on his drivers, and he is looking into ways to give them rebates.

Plans to expand the ERP coverage were unveiled on Wednesday in the third and final part of Singapore’s Land Transport Review.

In all, 16 new gantries will be in operation by November, bringing the total to 71. The base ERP rate will double to $2, with future increments of $1, instead of the current 50 cents.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim also announced a cut in road tax for vehicles, which comes to $180 per taxi. Cab companies which stand to save millions said they will pass this on to their drivers.

With December’s fare increase, some cab drivers complained about shrunken earnings, but a survey of 5,000 ComfortDelGro drivers indicated that, on average, its cabbies earn $159 per shift, before deducting expenses like rent and diesel costs, up from $153 before the fare increase.

The TOA said it is in the meantime doing its part to help drivers improve on service, to reflect the taxi’s status as a ‘premium point-to-point service that reduces the need to own a car’.

mariaa@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 1st February 2008



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