Singapore

$112m additional lifeline for private-hire, taxi sectors

Latest help package brings total aid to $300m as demand for services drops to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels

Cabbies, private-hire drivers and operators have been thrown an additional $112 million lifeline while the Covid-19 pandemic batters their industry and keeps ridership low.

The latest help follows a $77 million package announced in February and a second tranche of $120 million rolled out in March, taking the total assistance given to the sector to around $300 million.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday the additional aid will help drivers and operators at a time when many employees continue to work from home and tourism activities are muted.

This has led to demand for taxis and private-hire vehicles dropping to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

LTA said point-to-point (P2P) services which the industry offers have also been hit by shorter trips and lower fares.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said: "This package of relief measures will further help to support our drivers and operators through this difficult period and mitigate some of their concerns and challenges."

Of the $112 million, $106 million will go towards a six-month extension of the Special Relief Fund (SRF) to March next year.

The SRF, which started in February, helps active taxi and private-hire drivers defray business costs by providing monthly payouts of $300 per vehicle per month (or $10 per day).

More than 40,000 P2P drivers are expected to qualify for the extended SRF, LTA said.

Taxi operators have also pledged to continue providing matching rental rebates worth an additional $29 million to their hirers.

For instance, ComfortDelGro, the biggest cab operator here, said it will be extending a 25 per cent rental waiver for all taxis from today to Oct 31. This includes the $10 per taxi per day in SRF. The company had waived rental during the circuit breaker period and has extended rental discounts since June.

SMRT said that during the circuit breaker it had provided an average of $68 a day in rental rebates. "Since Singapore gradually opened up its economy... we have been supporting our taxi partners with an average of $30 a day in rebates," it said.

LTA said P2P drivers will be allowed to do deliveries for another year until end-September next year.

Mr Ang Hin Kee, adviser to the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association, said the groups requested that aid be extended and drivers be allowed to do deliveries for longer.

A spokesman for Grab said: "We are glad that our driver-partners can continue to take on delivery jobs during these challenging times."

Mr Neo Nam Heng, chairman of diversified motor group Prime, which is also a taxi operator and private-hire operator, said: "Instead of giving us fish, give us a fishing net. We need long-term solutions."

Mr Neo said the underlying problem with the market is oversupply, which exerts a huge depreciation cost on operators and dilutes income for drivers.

There are around 16,000 taxis and 50,000 private-hire cars here.

Transport