Stiffer penalties for taxi fare cheats, but cabbies say more can be done

Stiffer penalties for taxi fare cheats, but cabbies say more can be done

Speeding up administrative processes and installing cameras within taxis are suggestions cabbies say could improve driver welfare.

SINGAPORE: The Public Transport Council (PTC) announced last Friday (Apr 29) that it will impose stiffer penalties for taxi fare evasions from May 9 to deter those who ride and dash.

Currently, first-time offenders may be let off with just a warning from the Land Transport Authority or the PTC, as long as they pay the fare they owe. Those who do not comply will be fined S$100. Meanwhile, second-time offenders are fined S$200, and repeat offenders will be charged in court.

Under the new rules, penalties will be doubled to S$200 for first-time offenders and S$400 for the second offence, on top of the unpaid fare.

The rules for repeat offenders remain the same, where those who evade fares for the third time onwards will be charged in court. Cab operators also paste fare evasion decals within their taxis to deter potential culprits.

This comes amid a rise in the number of fare evasion cases to 240 last year, almost double the number in 2014 and three times more than in 2013.

However, some taxi drivers told Channel NewsAsia that more could be done to improve driver welfare.

Mr Raymond Ong, who has been driving a taxi for 17 years, recounted a particularly painful incident when he was ferrying a middle-aged couple in his taxi one day.

When a cyclist cut across his path, Mr Ong was forced to stop to avoid causing an accident or hurting the cyclist. However, his male passenger refused to accept his explanation and landed a punch "just above my right eyebrow".

After telling his wife to get out of the vehicle first on the pretext of searching for his wallet, the man then opened the door and dashed out of the taxi without paying the fare, Mr Ong recounted.


Cabbie Raymond Ong, who's been driving a taxi for 17 years. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)

Mr Ong suggested that having cameras inside taxis could help protect taxi drivers from such incidents.

“We have no proof because the harassment, the abuse, or the assault case happens inside the taxi, where we have no inward camera to support us," he said.

Another taxi driver, Mr Henry Tay, also said he felt that installing cameras could help prevent fare cheating incidents from happening, or help in police investigations when they do happen.

He added that speeding up administrative processes could go a long way: "In fare evasion (cases) you have to stop your meter, take out your receipt, then you go to the police station to file a police report. The police will ask you to go back to your company to file a report, (before) they'll file a report to the Land Transport Authority and LTA will file a report to PTC,” he said.

“Singapore is such an efficient country, so can (the process) be so lengthy?"

Source: CNA/mz