More private rides, more ricebowls shattered

By William Lim,

Yesterday, a Bill had been passed to regulate third-party taxi booking apps.

While Minister Lui addressed some minor concerns regarding the third-party apps, he neglected to address the more important concerns regarding private limousine services provider like Uber Executive, Uber X, GrabCar etc. This makes it rather apparent that the only point that Minister Lui brought across is that, all limousine providers like Uber and GrabCar are allowed to operate in Singapore!

Have the government stopped to consider the dire consequences of allowing them to operate in Singapore?

The Pioneer Government successfully wiped out the pirated taxi services in the 1960s and 1970s, only to have Minister Lui reverse the good work done by the Pioneers now!

Passengers have always been voicing their confusion about the local taxi fare. Now with the introduction of these private Limousines that set their own pricing, wouldn’t it be more confusing to the passengers? For instance, Uber had their price surge when their limousines were in demand; the fare for a single trip could cost as high as $200. While Grabcar, with their complicated formula, charges different prices at different timing; this is not transparent to passengers at all. All these services are theoretically using metered charges, but they are easily tampered with so this casts doubts on the accuracy of the metered charges.

These days, any app provider is able to create meter apps on mobile phones, so does this mean that the government deems this to be legal?

Whenever someone witnesses a taxi getting involved in an accident, the first thinking would tend to be, “Taxi at fault again!”  Actually, with the constant watchful eyes of the public and in-car video recorders these days, most of the drivers will behave while driving on the roads. This cannot be said for those limousine drivers as the public does not know if they are transport service providers or private-owned cars.

While taxi drivers are worried that the “Feedback” given to LTA or their companies would result in them losing their rice bowls, it is unknown how these “Feedback” will improve the service standard of the drivers overall.

Due to stringent safety standards set by LTA to the taxi companies (for example, the taxi companies are not allowed to exceed the number of accidents per 10,000km travelled), the taxi companies are to comply with higher maintenance, while no rules are set for the Limousine operators.

Taxi vehicles are allowed to be used up to a maximum of 7 years with one year optional extension, upon which the taxis have to be scraped; whereas the limousine vehicles are allowed for use up to the end of the COE expiry date, and worst yet, the COE may be renewed to extend the life of the limousines!.

It is foreseen that a trend might emerge such that people buy their own vehicles under a company, using them to fetch passengers as and when they like without being subjected to any form of regulations at all.

This will in turn flood the industry with excess of transport providers, posing potential serious threat to the rice bowls of the full-time transport providers.

Taxi industry has been allocated to Singaporeans. With the introduction of the private transport providers, PRs are now allowed to drive, so the taxi industry is losing its original grounds of being an industry reserved for Singaporeans only.

Taxi fares are set by taxi companies; and any increase in fares need to be approved by PTC. Ironically, fare adjustments by private transport providers do not require seeking of the same approval, hence fares may be adjusted at the providers’ whim and fancy.

Certainly, a bad bill has been tabled and throngs of taxi drivers will soon be out of a job soon!

This article was first published on Singapore Democratic Alliance’s website. Mr Lim is the current Constituency Secretary of Singapore Justice Party.