Singapore

Business still slow for cabbies and private-hire drivers

This article is more than 12 months old

Cabbies and private-hire drivers say business still slow in phase two, companies expect demand to rise slowly

In Mr Yap Kok Hua's 30 years as a taxi driver, this may be one of his worst spells of passenger pick-ups.

When he spoke to The Straits Times yesterday at a passenger pick-up bay outside Bishan MRT station, he had been waiting for 20 minutes and was third in a full queue of six taxis.

At the end of a nine-hour shift that started at 7am, the ComfortDelGro taxi driver earned slightly over $60, of which he would take home $17 after costs.

When asked whether entering phase two of reopening has helped, Mr Yap, 69, said: "Not so good. I get about a passenger an hour. It's almost the same as before Friday."

His response is typical among cabbies and private-hire car drivers who spoke to ST, even as Friday saw more shops reopening and small gatherings allowed again. Many cited a modest, if any, increase in earnings over the past two days, and very long queues at waiting bays.

Though some screenshots on social media reported private-hire drivers seeing jumps and surge pricing on Friday, this was not the case with those who spoke to ST.

FATHER'S DAY

ComfortDelGro taxi driver Henry Tay, 50, said that even with yesterday being Father's Day, few were in the mood to head out to celebrate.

"Friday was slightly better during peak hours, maybe one or two more passengers at lunch time. But all taxi queues are still very long," he added.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Ang Hin Kee, executive adviser to the National Taxi Association, said passengers are naturally cautious as this is the first weekend of phase two, and traffic will return gradually.

"Support from the Government, such as permission for drivers to continue with doing food delivery, rental rebates plus other support schemes, will be needed," he added.

Operators were conservative with their forecasts even as they said the situation has improved.

Ms Tammy Tan, group chief corporate communications officer for ComfortDelGro, said trips made by its taxis during Friday's morning peak rose 16 per cent compared with the same period a week ago.

"We expect demand to slowly edge up going forward although the increase is not expected to be huge since many people are still working from home," she said.

Similarly, a Grab spokesman said it saw a "slight increase" in demand in phase two, but expected Singaporeans to remain cautious. He also did not expect to see numbers returning to pre-pandemic levels quickly.

As for buses and trains, regular commuters said they saw an uptick in passengers, especially in the morning peak period.

When ST visited major MRT stations or bus interchanges at Bishan, Toa Payoh, Dhoby Ghaut, Outram Park and HarbourFront yesterday afternoon, they were quiet with few people.

Musician Fazly Bay Ahmad Yousuff, 33, who was headed into town from his home in Simei for the first time since the circuit breaker started in April, said the train was not crowded.

"While on the train, I try not have contact with people, and I head home once I'm done."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING: TAN TAM MEI

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