New fare rules for taxi firms on the way

Taxi operators will have to abide by new fare rules from the second half of the year, as a way of stopping fares from becoming more complex for commuters.

Varying degrees of standardisation will be imposed on operators for surcharges, meter fares and booking fees.

However, flagdown fares will remain untouched, and companies will be allowed to continue charging different flagdown fares for different cab models.

The recommendations are a result of a year-long consultation between the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Public Transport Council (PTC) with commuters, taxi companies and drivers following calls to make the taxi fare structure less complicated.

"LTA and PTC will adopt a balanced approach...As mandating the harmonisation of flagdown fares may lead to higher flagdown fares for commuters, we will leave them as they are for now," they said.

The recommendations can only be implemented after changes to the Public Transport Act are made.

Once the changes are approved, all 28,000 cabs on the road will have to charge the same peak period, location, city and midnight surcharge rate.

Currently, all companies levy a surcharge of 25 per cent of the metered fare during the peak period and 50 per cent during the late night period. This will remain, but if there is a lack of consensus among cab companies in the future, the PTC will arbitrate to set a common standard.

Similarly, all taxis - regular or premium - will charge the same location-based surcharge. However, operators may opt out of imposing this surcharge if they wish.

For example, only SMRT and Prime Taxi currently have a $3 surcharge for Marina Bay Sands at some times of the day, but the other cab companies have chosen not to impose this.

Standardisation for call booking rates and metered rates will be less stringent.

Cab companies can choose how much they want to charge for this, but they must maintain one set of rates for all their regular taxis and another for premium taxis.

They must also follow the set time and distance parameters for these surcharges. For example, all operators must charge their unit fares every 400m after the first kilometre to the 10th km, and every 350m thereafter.

Currently, all standard cabs have a metered rate of 22 cents. However, there are variations for premium models. For example, SMRT now charges a metered rate of 30 cents for its Ssangyong Radius, but 33 cents for the Chrysler 300C model.

In terms of booking fees, Prime Taxi has three different charges of $3.50, $5 and $6 during peak hours for its regular taxis. With the new rules, it will have to settle on one rate.

If cab companies want to introduce any new fare components, they will have to apply to the PTC for approval.

Commuter Rena Tan, a 34-year-old business development manager, said: "We have to continue paying different flagdown fares. However, at least some of the surcharges will be the same.

"But as there's usually a shortage of cabs, passengers do not have much choice and will take the cab even if they know it will cost more."

Additional reporting by Rachel Tan.

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