SINGAPORE: Following ride-sharing firm Grab's announcement of a carpooling service between Singapore and Johor Bahru, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Monday (Jun 20) it has informed the company that the original service model "did not comply with regulations in Singapore".
Grab is currently running a free pilot programme for their Singapore-Johor Bahru service, however, and LTA noted that such free cross-border carpool rides are legal.
Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, an LTA spokesperson said: "Malaysian-registered cars are not allowed to provide hire-and-reward services in Singapore without a public service vehicle licence."
Likewise, Malaysian regulations do not permit Singapore-registered cars to do the same in Malaysia without a public service vehicle licence.
Grab announced the service last Monday (Jun 13), and even published fare estimates, putting the average cost of a trip at S$12. But on the weekend before the service was due to launch, it said on its website that the service would be a three-week-long fare-free pilot programme.
It also stated that it is currently “engaging with the Land Transport Authority in Singapore and regulatory authorities in Malaysia” on the use of carpooling solutions to improve connectivity between Singapore and Johor Bahru.
Illegal paid cross-border ride-sharing services do exist in Singapore, and primarily advertise their services through apps like Facebook and WeChat. Under section 101 of the Road Traffic Act, any person caught using a foreign-registered motor vehicle as an unlicensed public service vehicle to convey passengers for hire and reward can be fined up to S$3,000 and jailed up to six months.
Regulatory hurdles aside, the GrabHitch Singapore-Johor Bahru service may have to clear a few more obstacles.
Most bus travellers Channel NewsAsia spoke to on Monday at the Woodlands Checkpoint said they have not heard of GrabHitch, and would probably not use a carpooling service.
“I need to travel at fixed times as I go in and out for work. So I don’t think I’d use the service, because it might be hard to look for a ride at the exact times I want,” said Mdm Jumaidah, a Johorean who works at a fast-food chain in Singapore. She added that the frequency of the Causeway Link bus service she uses is fairly good, with one arriving every 15 minutes.
Mr Danny De Alwis, a student on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur, said he would most likely stick to taking the bus as it would be cheaper. It costs a few dollars to get from the Woodlands checkpoint to Queen Street.
One supporter of carpooling is GrabHitch driver Sim Boo Eng, who gave this reporter a free lift into Johor Bahru on Monday.
Mr Sim, who is semi-retired, said he would like to give rides because it goes some way in alleviating the traffic situation at the Causeway. “I go in two or three times a week, and there’s space in my car, so why not?
“Nowadays, the jam is unpredictable. Sometimes I see parents with kids, walking the length of the Causeway. I see that my car is empty, and so is the car in front. It’s not an optimal use of resources. Something can be done for those people,” he said, adding that it may be difficult for travellers with mobility issues to climb up and down the buses that ply the Singapore-Johor route.
The 64-year-old, who works as an advisor in the plastics recycling line, heads across the Causeway on weekdays to catch up with friends and business associates. On weekends, he spends time at his Johor Bahru home with his wife.
The land border crossing between Singapore and Malaysia is the busiest in the world, clearing up to 400,000 people daily.