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SINGAPORE-BASED ride-sharing app Grab on Monday said it will soon launch GrabHitch JB-SG, a service that lets passengers carpool (share a vehicle with others who are headed in the same direction) to travel between Johor Bahru and Singapore.
GrabHitch JB-SG, which will launch on June 20, is said to be the region's first and most affordable cross-border, door-to-door ride-sharing service. It is also part of Grab's efforts to localise its on-demand private hire vehicle offerings to compete with rival Uber.
With GrabHitch JB-SG, both drivers and passengers can pay less for their commute, enjoy the safety, comfort and convenience of point-to-point transportation, and even meet new people, said Grab.
Ngiam Xin Wei, head of GrabHitch, told The Business Times: "GrabHitch JB-SG fares are meant to offset the cost of each ride . . . priced just slightly above public transport services but offers so much more in terms of comfort, speed and convenience."
The average fare for passengers is about S$12 or RM36 for a round trip, calculated based on the distance travelled and a fixed cross-border surcharge. A one-way trip from JB's City Square to Singapore's Woodlands costs RM9 (S$2.99), and S$9 for the return trip. A one-way trip from AEON Bukit Indah to Orchard costs RM23, and S$14 for the return journey.
Ms Ngiam added that passengers' safety is assured as Grab will screen all GrabHitch drivers, and offers in-app features such as "Share my ride" and "Driver rating". Passengers can pre-book rides up to seven days in advance, and up to 30 minutes before pickup time. Fares are shown upfront to ensure transparency.
Yang Nan, assistant strategy and policy professor at the National University of Singapore Business School said: "It's a smart move. The fact that Grab moves ahead of Uber showcases the company's advantage in the knowledge of local market and demand."
Grab operates in 30 cities in South-east Asia, and has been known for its "hyperlocal" approach. Ms Ngiam said: "GrabHitch JB-SG is expected to solve common pain points facing commuters who travel frequently between Singapore and JB, which are speed, affordability and safety."
Uber, the San Francisco-based platform which operates in 15 cities in South-east Asia, does not currently offer cross-border services. It does however, have a car-pooling service named uberPOOL, which is today available in cities across India, China, France, Brazil, Mexico, the United States and the UK.
When asked if Uber plans to roll out uberPOOL in Singapore, Warren Tseng, general manager of Uber Singapore, said that uberPOOL is Uber's "top priority" in the Republic, but did not disclose more details.
He said: "We are focused on helping more Singaporeans get from A to B safely, reliably and affordably. We are always exploring ways to improve the Uber experience for everyone on the platform. . . and contribute to improving road efficiency and greater affordability."
Prof Yang also noted that GrabHitch JB-SG's door-to-door service gives it an upper hand over prevailing offerings. "Taxi-pooling is already available at fixed locations. But GrabHitch offers better convenience. It will be a good complement to existing public transportation options."
These include SBS Transit Service 170 (which costs S$1.97-S$2.50 per trip), Causeway Link Express (S$1.50-S$4.00) and Singapore-Johor Express (S$2.40). There are also vehicle-pooling services, such as mobile apps Lompang and ShareTransport.
Some 400,000 commuters pass through the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints daily, according to Singapore's Immigration & Checkpoints Authority and Malaysia's Immigration Department.