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Singaporeans struggle to get taxis as city reopens for business

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Singapore's taxi fleet shrank by almost a fifth during the past two years, government data show. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Singapore's taxi fleet shrank by almost a fifth during the past two years, government data show. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

By Natalie Choy and Sheryl Tian Tong Lee

(Bloomberg) — Private-hire and taxi companies in Singapore are rushing to attract more drivers to meet surging passenger demand after the city-state dropped most of its pandemic-era curbs.

The city-state’s taxi fleet shrank by almost a fifth during the past two years, government data show, with many drivers exiting the industry as virus measures hit demand and rising costs hurt margins. That’s resulted in longer waiting times and surging fares as Singapore reopens for business.

In an urgent move to bump up the supply of taxis, a S$3 additional surcharge will be implemented from May 19 until June 30 for trips from the airport, Singapore’s Changi Airport Group announced in a Facebook post Thursday.

This means the journeys will incur a S$8 surcharge from 5pm to 11.59pm daily, up from S$5 currently; and the surcharge for other times will double to S$6.

A spokesperson for the largest taxi firm in the financial hub, ComfortDelGro Corp., told Bloomberg News the “significant” increase in demand for taxi services has “far outstripped” supply, especially during peak periods.

“Many drivers had given up their taxis and this has shrunk the overall pool,” the spokesperson said. “We are working to try and get more drivers back.”

Singapore isn’t alone. Across Asia, nations face broader labor shortages as they move to swiftly reopen their borders and kick start their economies.

A sharp rise in oil prices due to the war in Ukraine is also piling on pressure and taxi firms in Hong Kong and London have moved to raise prices in recent months. ComfortDelGro increased fares for its fleet in Singapore in March — for the first time in a decade.

(Source: Bloomberg)
(Source: Bloomberg)

Data from Singapore’s Land Transport Authority shows the city’s taxi fleet shrank by about 19% in the past two years. It’s now down to 14,603 taxis as of March this year, compared with 17,977 two years ago. Over the same period, the number of licensed drivers declined by more than 6,500.

Amid local media reports highlighting consumers’ anger about surge pricing, typically employed by private hire car providers, GoTo Group and Grab Holdings Ltd have both said they are rolling out incentives to get more drivers on the road during peak hours.

—With assistance from Low De Wei.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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