SINGAPORE: SMRT will extend its full rental waiver for taxis until Jun 1, it announced on Wednesday (Apr 29), in a bid to help its taxi partners "cushion the financial impact they will experience" as a result of the extended “circuit breaker” period.
The move will cost the company an additional S$6 million, bringing its total support for taxi drivers to about S$20 million, SMRT said in a press release.
SMRT gave drivers a S$55 daily rental rebate in April, which included S$10 from the Government’s Special Relief Fund, to help them cope with the decline in demand due to the enhanced COVID-19 measures.
The Government closed schools and most workplaces starting Apr 7 as part of its measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore.
“We would like to assure our taxi partners that we are taking care of them during this difficult period,” said Mr Tony Heng, senior vice-president of SMRT Road Holdings.
“The extension of the circuit breaker until Jun 1 will surely affect their earnings. By giving them full rental waiver for the same period, we hope they have less to worry about.”
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SMRT also expanded its collaborations with food and beverage operators to provide jobs for drivers affected by the tightened measures.
More than 400 drivers have been tapped to provide food delivery services for the company’s food and beverage partners, including restaurant reservation platform Chope.
“We aim to recruit more than 500 taxi partners to support our delivery collaborations,” SMRT said.
Mr Lee Kong Hiong, who has been with SMRT Taxis for eight years, was among those who recently started delivering food under Chope.
The 53-year-old said he had seen a 40 to 60 per cent drop in his earnings since the start of the outbreak.
“Now, with the opportunities to complete food deliveries, I can still continue to drive and earn some extra income,” he said. “I am very happy to support this initiative as these delivery trips definitely help to cover some of my bills.”
Additionally, about 30 drivers under limousine service provider Strides Transportation have volunteered to help deliver meals twice daily to about 500 needy families affected by the outbreak.
This is part of SMRT’s collaboration with community initiatives such as Project Makan.
Taxi drivers are also offered short-term job options and opportunities to become bus captains with SMRT buses.
“For those who are still driving taxis and limousines, we are generating more trips for them, such as working with business partners to buy taxi vouchers in bulk,” the company said, adding that staff have been asked to take SMRT taxis for work trips if using point-to-point services.
Demand for taxi services in Singapore saw a steep drop in the last month, as the Government urged people to stay at home as much as possible and only leave the house for essential trips.