Monday, December 12, 2011

Revised fares hit cabbies' takings

COMFORTDELGRO taxi drivers reported a drop in daily takings of at least 20 per cent yesterday, the first day the company's revised fares kicked in.

Cabbies my paper spoke to lamented that some passengers avoided getting into their taxis as a result of the fare revision.

"Even though they see that our cabs are empty, they choose to board those of other companies," said cabby S. L. Chua.

The 50-year-old, who has been a taxi driver for more than a decade, said his earnings yesterday had been "significantly" affected by the fare changes.

"Typically, I could easily make up to 20 trips in a day. But this morning, I had to go around hunting for passengers," he said.

Cabby Teh Kok Wah, 58, said he barely made enough money yesterday to cover the daily rental of his taxi and diesel costs of about $120.

"It is a lose-lose situation for both the passengers and us. They end up having to pay more while we see fewer people taking our cabs," he explained.

Even during the evening rush hour, cabbies said they faced similar difficulties.

When asked how business had been affected yesterday, ComfortDelGro spokesman Tammy Tan said that it was "too early to say".

ComfortDelGro's taxi companies, Comfort Transportation and CityCab, manage a fleet of about 15,700 taxis. Drivers of other taxi operators, too, reported a drop in earnings yesterday.

Trans-cab cabby H. W. Wong, 58, said: "When the biggest player increases prices, the passengers assume that all the cabs are charging higher fares and so avoid them altogether."

However, cabbies said they expect the situation to stabilise within the next two weeks, once passengers get used to the changes.

They also pointed out that December has traditionally been a slow period due to the school holidays, when people go on vacation.

However, it being the festive season, "people are in a festive mood and won't mind spending, so a clearer picture will emerge after Chinese New Year next year", said Mr Teh.

Yesterday, SMRT, the third-largest operator with some 4,000 taxis, also announced changes to its fare structure.

When contacted, two of the four other taxi companies said they are monitoring the situation.

Trans-cab and Smart Taxi said they are in discussions with their drivers to review their fares.

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