I got a reply to one of my earlier posts here. The comment basically highlighted the fares in other countries – particularly Hong Kong. I have to admit that fares in some other countries are indeed more expensive than Singapore’s (have you tried taking a New York taxi?), but after much consideration, I think – yes, I think that we (or at least, I) are not lamenting on how expensive our taxi fares are, or not. It’s more on how the taxi companies raise their taxi fares as and when they fancy.

I probably have no qualms about paying a premium for a taxi when I really need one – but it seems like they are adding fares every now and then – and it just make anyone feel like a sucker – not to mention of news that some passenger actually got charged a city surcharge of $3.00 when he boarded the taxi at Kembangan – which is obviously far away from the city. This incident, was conveniently called a "muddle".

Oh yes, if Kembangan is part of the city, then wouldn’t Aljunied, Eunos, Paya Labar and the rest down the MRT line be considered as "city area" – and, to add salt to the wound, isn’t Singapore… a Lion City?!

I really have no solution for this taxi fare issue. However, going by the arguments that the taxi companies are giving, it does seem that everyone (all employees) deserve a pay increment every time there’s announcement of a fuel hike because inevitably, everything else gets affected and everyone is effectively having less money. Perhaps the taxi companies should look into looking after the welfare of their own taxi drivers instead of pushing everything to the consumers and making everyone hate taxi drivers (no, of course I don’t hate them – I just hate the amount of surcharge that appears on the screen).

And of course, educate their taxi drivers on where the city is.

The big taxi surcharge muddle

NEXT time you board a taxi in town, be extra-vigilant of the surcharges you have to pay.

A confusion over what constitutes the ‘City’ area means that some people could end up paying $3 more than they should.

Technically, it sounds simple enough: If a passenger boards a taxi in the City area between 5pm and midnight from Mondays to Saturdays, then he is subject to a $3 surcharge.

But what exactly are the demarcations of ‘City’? Therein lies the confusion for some passengers and taxi drivers.

The inconsistent implementation of the surcharge has riled passengers who say they are being ripped off by errant cabbies.

Mr Fattah Salim, 19, a polytechnic student, was almost made to pay the surcharge for a cab ride last Saturday at 9pm.

Despite the fact that he had boarded at Kembangan – in the eastern part of Singapore and well outside the the Central Business District (CBD) – the driver implemented the surcharge.

When he queried the driver, the latter insisted Kembangan was part of the city area where the surcharge was applicable.

The driver reluctantly waived the surcharge only after Mr Fattah protested.

The three taxi companies- namely, ComfortDelGro, SMRT and Premier Taxis – said the City area surcharge was applicable if the point of hire is within demarcated CBD zones.

ComfortDelGro added that the surcharge also applies if the point of hire for its cabs is in the Orchard Road stretch.

All three companies also said their drivers are briefed on the areas covered by the surcharge.

Despite this, some taxi drivers mypaper spoke to said they only have a sketchy grasp of it.

my paper spoke to several passengers who suggested that a proper map displayed in the taxis for everyone to see so as to eliminate confusion. According to them, some cabbies have been arbitrarily imposing the surcharges even if the point of hire is outside the city area.

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) website (www.lta.gov.sg), the demarcated areas considered as the CBD include Tanjong Pagar, Republic Boulevard and Havelock Road.

Unlike ComfortDelGro, Premier Taxis and SMRT do not include the Orchard Road stretch as part of the City area.

Both passengers and taxi drivers agree that having one uniform map for display will go some distance to solve the problem.

When contacted, an LTA spokesperson said that the surcharge is independently imposed by the taxi companies themselves. — my paper

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/STIStory_252210.html

News of the fuel surcharge:

Taxi firms mulling over fuel surcharge

Flat tariff of 30 to 40 cents may be imposed to help cabbies offset soaring cost of diesel

By Christopher Tan, Senior Correspondent

Just months after taxi fares rose sharply, cab commuters may have to brace themselves for another cost hike: fuel surcharges.

The Sunday Times has learnt that taxi companies here are proposing what airlines have been applying since 2004 – a surcharge on top of stated fares to defray rising fuel prices. In the case of airlines, the surcharges are sometimes higher than the fares.

Industry sources say the fuel surcharge being considered for cabs could be a flat tariff of 30 to 40 cents a ride. If a cabby makes about 20 trips per shift, a 40-cent tariff would lift daily takings by $8, helping to offset the rise in fuel expenses.

Since the last cab fare increase in December, prices of diesel at the pumps have climbed by 40 cents a litre to a record $1.933 (before discount). A cabby on a single shift covering about 250km would have seen his fuel bill rising by close to $10 a day over the period.

Although operators have not made a firm decision, observers reckon the surcharge could be implemented in the next few weeks.

Mr Lim Chong Boo, managing director of Premier Taxis, said: ‘We’ll have to wait for ComfortDelGro to take the lead.’

Ms Tammy Tan, spokesman for ComfortDelGro, the biggest cab group, said: ‘This is something that is being looked at, given the unabated rise in fuel prices. But no decision has been taken yet.’

Mr Neo Nam Heng, managing director of Prime Taxis, whose fleet runs entirely on compressed natural gas, said even if other players went ahead with a fuel surcharge, he might not. ‘We cannot follow blindly. After all, we are not using the same fuel as they are. We will gather feedback from our drivers before making the next move.’

There are six taxi companies here with a total fleet of about 24,000 cabs. As the industry is deregulated, they do not need to seek approval from the authorities to make changes to fares, unlike the bus and train operators.

Taxi drivers have mixed reactions to news of the proposal.

Cabby Azman Mohamed, 45, said: ‘We’ve seen a drop in passenger numbers since the fare increase. This is not going to help us. This will only help the bus and MRT companies because fewer people will take cabs. What we want is more passengers, not driving around empty burning more fuel.’

Fellow driver S.H. Ngiam, 53, said: ‘We have too many surcharges. This will put off more people.’

But cabby Tony Pang, 59, felt it was ‘a good move as it will relieve the hardship of rising diesel prices’.

Other cabbies said the time is not right for such a move, with inflation rate at a 26-year high. ‘We’ll be digging our own graves,’ one said.

Commuters are obviously displeased with the prospect.

Merchandiser Ivy Ong, 42, spoke for many when she said: ‘Oh no. I will not take taxis unless it is absolutely necessary.’

Ms Dawn Chia, 28, who is in public relations, said it would be ‘slightly insensitive of cab companies’ given that the last fare hike was ‘imposed very recently’.

Consumers Association of Singapore executive director Seah Seng Choon noted that when fares were raised recently, fuel cost was cited as one of the reasons.

‘Therefore, cab companies owe the public a good explanation to show cause for such a proposal to be justifiable,’ he said.

Taxi companies raised fares on Dec 17 last year. The flag-down fare rose by 30 cents to $2.80 and meters jumped at shorter intervals.

The city surcharge trebled to $3 from 5pm to midnight, and the peak-period surcharge was changed to 35 per cent of the metered fare from a flat $2.

Although cabbies said the number of fares has fallen since, takings have improved.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said: ‘Fuel cost should be properly reflected in fares, but imposing a surcharge now may worsen the public’s impression of the taxi industry, especially when inflation is on everyone’s mind.’

Mr Seng Han Thong, adviser to the Taxi Operators’ Associations, said: ‘Diesel prices have gone up by about 50 per cent from a year ago. Many taxi companies have also been giving fuel rebates to drivers. But this would not be sustainable in the long run.

‘We welcome and support any proposal from companies to help drivers reduce their burden. A fuel surcharge could be one way.’

christan@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/News/Home/Story/STIStory_252841.html

Article extracted on 1st July 2008



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