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Higher fares for private-hire cars, taxis due to demand surge not met by shrunken pool of drivers: Iswaran

SINGAPORE — A fall in the number of taxi and private-hire car drivers, along with a steep pick-up in demand for such transport, have caused fares to surge for these services recently.

A screen on a mobile phone showing ride-hailing services and charges for taxis and private-hire cars.

A screen on a mobile phone showing ride-hailing services and charges for taxis and private-hire cars.

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SINGAPORE — A fall in the number of taxi and private-hire car drivers, along with a steep pick-up in demand for such transport, have caused fares to surge for these services recently.

Transport Minister S Iswaran said on Monday (Aug 1) that since January 2020, the number of active taxi and private-hire car drivers has dropped by 18 per cent to about 57,000 drivers as of June this year. 

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting semi-lockdown and work-from-home arrangements had lowered demand for point-to-point transport, which included taxis and private-hire cars.

This was even though the Government had set aside more than S$530 million for support measures such as the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund and the Special Relief Fund, Mr Iswaran said.

He was giving a written reply to questions filed by Member of Parliament Saktiandi Supaat of Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency, regarding the causes of recent booking difficulties and price surges of private-hire cars and taxis. 

Mr Iswaran noted, though, that demand for point-to-point services has “picked up sharply” after infection controls were eased for the community in March and April this year, including the “reopening of international borders and the return of all employees to workplaces”.

Daily point-to-point trips had risen by 30,000 in June compared to February.

“However, the number of point-to-point drivers has not increased as rapidly as demand, and this has resulted in fare surges and booking difficulties,” Mr Iswaran explained.

“Like other sectors, the point-to-point sector will require time to adjust to the surge in demand after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.”

He noted that there are “signs that the market is responding”.

Vocational licence applications have increased recently, for instance, and drivers who left the sector may progressively return in response to the higher demand, which will help boost the supply of point-to-point drivers in the upcoming months.

To Mr Saktiandi’s question on whether the Government will consider liberalising regulations that now limit private motor cars to two paid carpooling trips a day, Mr Iswaran said that they will remain unchanged. 

“Carpool trips are incidental and non-commercial in nature, and this remains the case today. As private car owners typically take two trips a day — to and from home — the current regulatory regime allows private car owners to charge at cost-recovery basis for up to two trips a day.

“We have no plans to change this limit as existing avenues, such as the point-to-point framework, are in place for drivers to provide ride-sharing services that are commercial in nature.”

Related topics

transport S Iswaran taxis private-hire cars fares Covid-19 demand

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