Setting standards for taxi firms good 'but more can be done'

Setting standards for taxi firms good 'but more can be done'

The standards set for taxi companies to ensure enough cabs are on the road when demand is at its peak is a good move, but it is not enough to solve the problem, said observers and taxi drivers.

Other issues such as Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), the taxi business model and relief drivers have to be tackled as well, they said.

They were commenting on figures from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) showing that taxi availability standards have led to 3 per cent to 4 per cent more cabs, on average, plying the roads this year compared to last year.

At the same time, the number of call bookings successfully matched has risen by 1.5 percentage points.

The improvements are to be further bolstered by an electronic taxi information system that will inform cab companies on the length of the queue at a taxi stand.

It will be tried out at Lucky Plaza, Paragon Shopping Centre, OG Building, International Plaza and Hitachi Towers for one year, from next July.

These cab stands have up to 100 passengers and an average waiting time of more than 15 minutes during peak hours.

But all five cabbies interviewed are sceptical that drivers would enter the Central Business District (CBD) to pick up commuters, considering the ERP fee.

Said Mr Harry Ng, 55: "The new system would benefit drivers who are already in the CBD. But empty taxis cruising outside the city are less likely to enter, as many drivers do not want to pay the ERP."

The National Taxi Association (NTA) previously proposed that the LTA waive ERP charges to encourage taxi drivers to enter CBD areas more frequently.

Its latest proposal is a monthly concession pass of between $25 and $30 for drivers to enter the CBD between noon and 8pm.

NTA adviser Ang Hin Kee also called for a review of the existing business model, where taxi operators simply rent the vehicles out to drivers. "What can the operator do to help the drivers meet those performance indicators? There should be more responsibility than just the rental of vehicle," he said.

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