SOME parts of the taxi fare structure will be standardised to prevent taxi fares from becoming even more complicated in the future.
After consulting commuters, taxi drivers and taxi companies, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Public Transport Council (PTC) said on Tuesday they have decided to harmonise everything - except the flag-down fare.
The proposed requirements are expected to be implemented in the second half of the year, after the necessary legislative processes are completed.
The taxi fare structure has four main components: the flag-down fare, unit fares, surcharges, and booking fees.
Taxi companies will be required to standardise the last three. Larger taxis will also be required to standardise the fee they levy for additional passengers beyond the fourth one.
LTA and PTC will not mandate the harmonisation of the flag-down fare because it may lead to higher flag-down fares for commuters. Flag-down fares now range from S$3.20 to S$3.90 for standard taxis, and S$3.50 to S$5 for premium taxis.
Standard taxis comprised 95 per cent of the 28,537 taxis plying the roads in February.
More than half charge the lowest flag-down fare of S$3.20. Taxi companies have said that if they were required to harmonise flag-down fares, they would do so by levelling them upwards - partly to be fair to taxi drivers who now charge higher flag-down fares.
Taxi drivers themselves also prefer levelling up the flag-down fares.
As for commuters, they are not unhappy that the different flag-down fares will stay, since this would mean that they will get to pay lower fares at least part of the time.
PTC will, however, require each taxi company to have only one set of unit fares for its standard taxis and one for its premium taxis. Unit fares (based on distance travelled and waiting time) are now set at 22 cents for standard taxis; most premium taxis charge a unit fare of 30 cents, except for a few models belonging to some taxi companies.
With the change, the unit distance travelled and unit waiting time will be the same across all taxi companies.
To allow for competition, different taxi companies can still charge different unit fares.
As for surcharges, they will not be removed because most commuters feel surcharges play an important role in better matching supply and demand - for example, during peak periods and at locations with high demand.
But taxi companies will be required to levy the same surcharge across all its taxi models and across all taxi companies.
There are now two types of surcharges: time surcharges (peak-period and midnight surcharges); and location surcharges (the city-area surcharge and surcharges levied at specific locations such as the airport).
Similar surcharges are already being levied and PTC will introduce regulations to ensure this does not change. Time surcharges, for example, must be based on the same percentage of metered fare and have the same applicable timings across all cab companies.
The city-area surcharge amount, applicable timing and geographical boundary must be the same across all taxi companies.
For other location-based surcharges, PTC will mandate that where a location surcharge is levied at a location by one or more taxi companies, they must all levy the same surcharge for a given time period. But taxi companies may choose to waive a location surcharge at a particular location; for example, not all taxi companies are now levying a location surcharge at Marina Bay Sands and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.
Turning to booking fees, PTC said it will require the timings used for defining peak-period bookings and advance bookings to be the same across all taxi companies.
A taxi company will be required to have only one booking fee for peak-period, off-peak and advance bookings for its standard taxis and premium taxis, which most companies are already doing now.
Finally, the additional passenger fee payable for rides in larger taxis carrying more than four adult passengers will be standardised. If levied by a taxi company, it will have to be the same across all its selected taxi models. These include SMRT's London Taxis and Ssangyong Rodius, and Prime's Toyota Estima and Toyota Vellfire.
The National Taxi Association (NTA) said in a statement on Tuesday: "The latest recommendation from the Taxi Fare Structure Review - to involve the Public Transport Council (PTC) in a more active role - is a welcome one. We hope PTC will ensure that the interests and voice of the smaller market players, commuters and taxi drivers are taken care of and heard."
NTA noted that since the deregulation of the taxi industry in 1988, neither the commuters nor taxi drivers had fully benefited from the operation of free market forces, under which taxi companies were supposed to compete vigorously to set attractive taxi rental and fares. Instead, deregulation had led to taxi fares becoming too complex for commuters, with the same for rentals for taxi drivers.
"With the involvement of LTA and PTC, we look forward to the beginning of a new working framework with the various stakeholders in the industry, where we can help enhance the taxi industry and achieve progressive outcomes in the long run," it said.