Taxi firms may need to standardise own fare structures

CAB companies may soon have to standardise the fare structure of their own fleet of regular taxis.

"A standardised structure will enable commuters to compare rates across taxi companies more easily," said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo during a parliamentary debate yesterday.

She added that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will announce more details later.

While this move may help to defuse some of the confusion passengers face, simplification of taxi charges across the entire industry will not happen any time soon even though the complex taxi fare structure has been a longstanding bugbear of commuters.

There are reportedly close to 10 different flag-down charges, three different metered rates and more than 10 kinds of surcharges.

Mrs Teo explained that most of the variability of fares comes from the flag-down fare, which ranges from $3.20 to $5.

Focus group discussions held by the LTA found that commuters did not want to see fares go up, while cabbies did not want them to come down, if fares were to be standardised.

Mrs Teo said flag-down rates may have to be left to the taxi companies to decide for now, because of the differing costs of buying and hiring out taxis, and changing market conditions.

However, the Government could consider standardising other components such as surcharges and booking fees, she said.

Despite some unhappiness with the taxi fare structure, commuters appear to be satisfied overall with taxi services, going by a survey released by the LTA. It found that 96.2 per cent of respondents were satisfied with taxi services last year, compared with 95.6 per cent in 2013.

Mrs Teo said taxi availability standards, which mandate that cab operators have the bulk of their fleets plying the roads during the peak hours, have worked.

Some 87 per cent of all taxis are on the roads during those hours, which translates into an additional 1,500 or so available taxis.

The taxi utilisation rate has also increased by three percentage points to 68 per cent in a year.

Third-party taxi-booking apps have also helped to match more passengers with empty cabs, she added.

This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
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