Singapore

Comfort instructs cabbies to report errant private-hire drivers

In an escalating fight between incumbents and disruptors, taxi giant ComfortDelGro has instructed its cabbies to help crack down on street hails and other illegal practices by private-hire operators.

In text messages sent out to its drivers last week, ComfortDelGro asked its drivers to take photos of private-hire cars - such as those operated by Uber and Grab - that pull up at taxi stands.

Cabbies were told when reporting such infringements to include a photograph of the private-hire vehicle with its number plate clearly shown.

They should also include the date, time and location of the incidence in the report. The text message also asked cabbies to snap photographs if they see other forms of "illegal pick-up anywhere else".

ComfortDelGro said it would forward such reports to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The message has ignited strong protests from private-hire drivers, who are prohibited by law to do street hails or taxi-stand fare pick-ups.

Private-hire driver Chris Koh, 50, said: "There are now more private-hire vehicles than taxis here. So is the rule on taxi stand (pick-ups) still relevant?

"LTA should have done a robust review of the use of taxi stands funded by public money. Instead of creating more divisiveness in our society, taxi drivers and private-hire drivers should be encouraged to co-exist."

A ComfortDelGro spokesman said: "We have been receiving numerous feedback from our drivers that they have been unable to stop at taxi stands because of private hire cars which have been illegally using that space. Taxi stands are important pick-up points for our drivers and we will do our best to ensure that they are not misused."

The Straits Times understands that no other taxi company has sent out such messages to their drivers.

Veteran ComfortDelGro cabby Tony Pang, 67, said he would not act on his company's message. "I wouldn't do it. You'd have to attend court (to testify)," he said.

Cabby Henry Tay, 48, who was previously with Comfort but now drives for HDT, said: "I don't think this is healthy. It will lead to more disputes between cabbies and private-hire drivers. This whole thing should be handled by the LTA."

National Taxi Association adviser Ang Hin Kee said: "There is no need to pit one vocation driver against another. The onus lies with the operator or third-party app provider to educate their drivers."

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