Singaporeans, although they don't necessarily know it, already receive one of the worst taxi services in the world. Taxi drivers use every ploy in the book and some that aren't (ie. read "unethical") to increase their income at the expense of the Singaporean public. Yet, the situation is just about to get a lot worse.
ComfortDelGro, the largest taxi fleet in Singapore, comprising Comfort, CityCab and Yellow-top taxis, making up fully 65 per cent of all Singaporean taxis, with 15,000 of Singapore's 23,000 cabs, is going to DOUBLE taxi fares from Monday.
There have been hints, in recent days, of a "30 cent rise" in flag down rate. The fact that they would dribble out the news with that parsimonious description of the true state of affairs, is rather insulting to Singaporeans who may, now, be unable to afford a cab at all.
The flag down rate is indeed rising from $2.50 to $2.80. More significant, however, is that the rate of charge, for time and distance is DOUBLING to 20 cents per unit, from the present 10 cents. This means that taxis will now cost twice as much as before, on a per distance, per time basis. Yet, that is just the beginning of the price rises.
During the peak period - when people are most likely to be travelling, which is Monday to Friday, 7 am to 9.30 am and Monday to Saturday, 5 pm to 8 pm, there will be a 35% premium charge on the metered fare. Currently, the peak surcharge is a flat $2 no matter what the distance or time of journey.
The City Area Surcharge, for pick ups in the City area will TRIPLE to $3 and will be payable for a greater part of the day (Monday to Saturday, 5pm to Midnight). Currently, it is $1 payable Monday to Thursday, 5pm to 8 pm and Friday to Saturday, 5 pm to 11.30 pm.
The late night surcharge will be 50% of the metered fare, added on, from midnight to 5.59 am. Currently, there are staggered rates from 11.30 pm to 5.59 am.
The only improvement, from the point of view of the passenger, is that booking fees will be reduced to $3.50 prime time, Monday to Friday, 7 am to 9.30 am and 5pm to 11 pm. Currently they are $4. Off peak booking fees will remain at $2.50.
So what do all these changes mean to how much it will now cost to take a cab in Singapore?
Well, let us do an analysis.
For someone taking a cab home after work, at say, 7 pm, from the City area, for a journey which presently costs, say $12, what will the new cost be? Well, under the old regime, the flag down portion of that $12 is $2.50. The City Surcharge is $1. The peak charge is $2. The rest, $7.50 is the metered portion based on time and distance.
Under the new regime, the flag down would be $2.80. The metered portion would be charged at DOUBLE the rate, making it 2 times $7.50 = $15. The City area surcharge would be $3. This makes a total of $20.80. On top of this there will be a 35% peak period premium, giving a total for the fare of an astonishing $28.08!
They spoke of a "30 cents rise"...but what actually are ComfortDelGro doing? New prices on a typical sample journey are 234 % of present prices. This now makes taxi taking an unaffordable service for most Singaporeans. Almost no-one is going to agree to pay almost 30 dollars for a journey that until now has been 12 dollars, or so, on a regular basis. That is just for short trips. Long trips such as runs to the airport will now cost perhaps 50 or 60 dollars, compared to just over 20 dollars, presently, for many Singaporeans.
Singaporeans are being cheated on every front by the public taxi service. They are driven by poorly trained, ignorant, dishonest drivers who don't know where they are going and try to cheat the passenger every way they can - and now they will be gouged, by truly ugly fares everytime they board a cab.
It is, I feel, a time for Singaporeans to show what they think of these new fare rises: by never taking a cab from ComfortDelGro again. Should other cab services raise their fares in a similar way, they too can be avoided. If no-one agrees to these fares by taking cabs anymore, then they will have to reduce the fares to what they were before - or something similar.
Why is ComfortDelGro doing this? Well, it says it is an answer to the problem of unavailability of cabs, when people need them. I find that ludicrous. Why were cabs unavailable? Because the cab drivers were acting in unison, to cheat the customers, by "hiding" and refusing to pick up passengers unless they called them out, and paid call out charges. The drivers were only unavailable because they were busy cheating the consumer. Now, ComfortDelGro has had the inspired idea of rewarding these dishonest drivers by making the practice of gouging the customer official and ensuring that ALL taxi journeys are a complete rip-off. Thirty dollars for a modest trip out of town, for a country in which salaries are modest by Western standards (really, really modest, if the truth be known, for most Singaporeans), is far, far too much. Taxis, henceforth, will be for tourists only - who really don't have a choice and don't know any better.
The real answer to the issue of vanishing taxis and the inability to get one unless a call-out is made is much simpler than across the board, greedy fare rises. The real answer is to penalize any driver who behaved like that. There should have been high fines and perhaps custodial sentences for repeat offenders. That is what works in Singapore to bring behaviour into line - and that is what should have been done for taxi drivers. Their behaviour should have been made illegal, with stiff penalties.
Another alternative would have been to abolish the call-out charge altogether - and made it illegal not to take a call-out booking. That would have worked equally well.
In Singapore, taxi drivers will never do the right thing, in terms of service. They will always do what makes them the most money, even if that action is a dishonest one - or an illegal one (if no-one is looking). The notion of giving good customer service has not entered the consciousness of this particular workforce - nor, it seems, has it entered the minds of the ComfortDelGro executives who have just decided to multiply the price of a typical taxi journey by 2 and a third times.
Decisions like ComfortDelGro's affect the quality of life of everyone who lives and works in Singapore. Such decisions should be made with much more care. They say they are looking after the interests and livelihoods of taxi drivers. Well, what about everyone else's interests and livelihoods? My experiences with Singaporean taxi drivers have been very mixed. Some of the poorer experiences have led me to the opinion that drivers do not deserve special consideration. Many of them have behaved extremely dishonestly towards me. They need to be regulated - not rewarded with higher fares.
From Monday, the viable transport options of millions of Singaporeans will be reduced by one modality. For from Monday, millions of Singaoreans will no longer be able to afford one of the most convenient forms of transport previously available: the taxi cab.
The only hopeful possibility is if people stop taking cabs. If no-one takes cabs anymore, then prices will have to return to previous levels. I, for one, will do my utmost to find any other mode of transport than a taxi cab, in future. Quite frankly, with the levels of DISservice, presently common, and the new price rises - they don't deserve my custom - or yours, for that matter.Note: Source of data on the new taxi fare structure: today's Today newspaper, page 3.
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Labels: ComfortDelGro, corporate greed, dishonesty, greed, price hikes, public transportation, rip-off, Singapore, taxi drivers, taxi fares, Taxis