SINGAPORE: The Government will put an additional S$112 million towards extending the Point-to-Point (P2P) Support Package (PPSP), which aims to support taxi and private-hire car drivers and operators amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a news release on Tuesday (Sep 15), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that although the resumption of some activities in Phase 2 has increased the demand for taxis and private-hire cars, ridership remains significantly lower at 70 per cent and trips are shorter, resulting in lower fares per trip.
Point-to-point ridership is unlikely to return to pre-coronavirus levels in the near term, said LTA,with many employees expected to continue with their work-from-home arrangements, tourism activities remaining muted and poor economic conditions.
"Many taxis and private-hire car drivers are understandably concerned about their livelihoods," said LTA.
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Out of the S$112 million, S$106 million will go towards a six-month extension of the Special Relief Fund to March next year. The fund, which started in February, helps active taxi and private-hire car drivers defray business costs by providing monthly payouts of S$300 per vehicle per month.
Drivers who are currently receiving Special Relief Fund payouts will continue to receive the payouts during the extended period.
More than 40,000 point-to-point drivers are expected to qualify for the extended relief payouts. LTA said taxi operators have also pledged to continue providing matching rental rebates worth an additional S$29 million to their hirers.
“This package of relief measures will further help to support our drivers and operators through this difficult period and mitigate some of their concerns and challenges,” said Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Transport, Dr Amy Khor.
DELIVERIES TO SUPPLEMENT DRIVERS’ INCOMES
Taxi and private-hire car drivers will continue to be allowed to provide delivery services until September next year, said LTA.
The temporary liberalisation of point-to-point regulations to allow the use of taxis and private-hire cars for delivery services was first announced in March. It has since provided drivers with an additional source of income while helping to fulfil the surge in demand for delivery services, said LTA.
Taxi and private-hire car drivers have also shared that this has helped them and have asked that the scheme be continued, LTA added.
In a statement on Tuesday, Grab said it welcomed the extended support from the Government and was "glad" that its drivers-partners could continue to take on delivery jobs during these challenging times.
"Since the 'circuit breaker' period, we've worked closely with the authorities to enable our driver-partners to deliver food, parcels and groceries. These have and continue to provide additional earning opportunities for them. In addition, we've also launched training programmes and a career support portal to help enhance their employability if they wish to seek other opportunities to further supplement their earnings.
"We will continue to monitor the situation, and stand ready to adjust our services and extend support wherever possible," said a Grab spokesperson.
REVISED CRITERIA FOR PRIVATE-HIRE CAR DRIVER VOCATIONAL LICENCE
To ensure that the point-to-point sector continues to be sustainable, LTA said it has held several rounds of consultations with industry stakeholders and associations to review the eligibility criteria for the private-hire car driver vocational licence.
Given the growing similarities between taxi and private-hire car services, the eligibility criteria for both forms of vocational licences should be aligned, LTA added.
All new applicants must be Singapore citizens who are at least 30 years old at the point of application, with a minimum of one year of driving experience.
Private-hire car driver vocational licence applications received before 5.30pm on Tuesday will continue to be processed under the previous eligibility criteria. Existing licence holders who are below 30 years old or are Singapore permanent residents will not be affected under this new rule.
“The proportion of private-hire car drivers below 30 years old is small and private-hire car operators have shared that the majority of them are driving part-time. They will be able to continue providing private-hire car services so long as they renew their private-hire car driver’s vocational licences before expiry,” said LTA.
The National Private Hire Vehicles Association and National Taxis Association said the raised age requirement will not only level the playing field for taxi drivers who have to adhere to a minimum age of 30 years old, but will also encourage young drivers to gain outside work experience.
Young drivers should consider gaining employment through schemes such as the SGUnited Traineeship programmes or placement programmes under the Jobs Growth Incentive, they said in a joint media release.
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Both associations welcomed the extension of the support package and the liberalisation of point-to-point regulations, and said that they would also continue to engage their drivers and help them upgrade their skills.
The PPSP was first introduced in February, featuring S$77 million in aid for the point-to-point transportation sector and its drivers. The second tranche of the support package was announced in March, amounting to an additional S$120 million.
Beyond the relief measures provided by the Government, point-to-point operators have also extended various forms of support to their drivers during this period. This includes commission rebates and rental waivers or discounts, including full rental waivers by some operators during the circuit breaker period.
LTA said it acknowledges operators’ efforts in this area and strongly encourages them to continue to pass on savings from the additional Government relief measures.