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Lower flag-down fares for taxis

Peak hour fares should also be reviewed, say smaller taxi operators.
Fri, Feb 06, 2009
The Straits Times

By Christopher Tan, Senioir Correspondent

SMALLER taxi operators want taxi fares lowered amid the deepening economic slowdown that has already seen a number of cabbies giving up driving.

Following last week's news that bus and train operators will lower fares, Mr Lim Chong Boo, managing director of Premier Taxis, suggests lowering the $2.80 flag-down fare during non-peak hours.

Mr Johnny Harjantho, managing director of Smart Taxis, however, reckoned that peak-hour fares - where a 35 per cent surcharge applies - should also be reviewed. Peak hours are from 7am to 9.30am on weekdays and 5pm to 8pm from Mondays to Saturdays.

"But it is difficult for a small company like us to move prices," Mr Harjantho said. "We have to wait for Comfort."

ComfortDelGro, which has 15,000 of the 24,300 cabs in Singapore, was mum when approached. "We never comment on fares until we have an announcement to make," its spokesman said.

The smaller players had other suggestions to lower costs for cabbies, including getting a tax disparity fixed.

"Today, a two-litre diesel passenger car attracts far lower tax than a taxi of the same engine capacity," Premier's Mr Lim said of the $2,400 difference in taxes. "If the diesel tax can be lowered, we can pass the cost savings to our drivers."

Another idea from Mr Neo Nam Heng, head of Prime Taxis, was to allow firms to use second-hand cars as taxis.

Two years ago, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) allowed used car dealers to convert unsold stock to private hire vehicles. Mr Neo argued that the same principle could apply for taxis.

Such vehicles will cost less to buy than brand new taxis. Cab operators could then charge cabbies lower rentals, which now range from $65 to $120 a day. In turn, fares can be lowered for passengers.

According to the LTA, taxi ridership between July and November last year averaged 900,420 a day, 4.1 per cent lower than the same period in 2007.

Fewer taxis are being rented out to drivers as well. Between July and November last year, unhired taxis averaged 1,377 a month, nearly 30 per cent more than the same period in 2007.

Which comes first?

lowering cab fare to attract more passengers so less unhired taxis?

or is this equilibrium?