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Singapore-Johor carpool app: Sameride says usage not subject to LTA regulations

The company says it is a communication platform for commuters, and not a taxi app that has to comply to LTA guidelines.

Singapore-Johor carpool app: Sameride says usage not subject to LTA regulations

File photo of a general view of the Causeway from Singapore to Johor Bahru. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Sameride, a carpool app for commuters travelling between Johor and Singapore, has maintained that it is a communication platform and thus not subject to Land Transport Authority (LTA) regulations.

Its statement on Tuesday (Dec 31) came after LTA warned of "strong enforcement action" against vehicles involved in cross-border hire-and-reward carpool services without a valid public service vehicle licence (PSVL). 

The app launched the Johor-Singapore route on Monday and saw more than 500 ride offers and requests created, which it described as "higher than expected". 

In its statement, Sameride emphasised that it is not an e-hailing app. 

“Sameride does not operate a fleet of cars or hire drivers to provide rides. It is not a taxi app.

"It is rather a messaging and social platform (allowing users to be grouped according to their) home areas, work areas, and schedule. So, similar to the messaging and social platforms, the use of the Sameride app is not subject to regulation,” the statement read.

LTA, in its Saturday statement, had advised commuters against engaging the services of drivers with unlicensed vehicles, as the vehicles might not be sufficiently insured against third party liabilities.  

Drivers caught providing such service without a PSVL could be jailed and fined, it added. 

Several commuters registered on Sameride told CNA they were concerned that some of the drivers were operating without the required PSVL and were evasive when asked. 

They added that the drivers also wanted to charge excessively high fees for one-way trips across the Causeway that were comparable to licensed taxis. 

READ: JB-Singapore RTS Link to proceed with 36% cost cut: Malaysia PM Mahathir

COMMUTERS PUT OFF BY HIGH FEES QUOTED

Sameride matches driver offers and requests from riders to travel.

On its website, Sameride said the prices are agreed between drivers and passengers, and that they should be based on two factors – market price, or how much other drivers charge; and the cost of the trip.

Sameride added that it does not regulate the cost of the ride, and said its app can be compared to a marketplace platform, with rides as “traded goods”.

The app does not have a payment function. 

Commuters who spoke to CNA said they were quoted prices between S$38 and S$90 per person for a driver to pick them up at a location in Singapore and drop them off in Johor Bahru. 

File photo of cars at Johor's CIQ complex.

Mr Henry Chua, a Johor Bahru resident who works as an engineer for a microchip company in Singapore, told CNA that he was quoted S$90 by a driver named Ley on the app for a trip on Monday afternoon from Chai Chee to JB Sentral, the main train station in Johor Bahru.

He ended up taking the public bus as he found the price “way too expensive” and that the driver did not reply when asked if he had a PSVL. 

“The price is about the same as a licensed tourist taxi,” said Mr Chua. 

“I think these drivers are taking advantage of the app to make money. They are not just picking up passengers on the way to their own destination, they are operating business,” he added.

In his offer, Ley specified that he would transport a maximum of four passengers for S$90 to S$150.

Another commuter, Ms Cally Ho, took up an offer by a driver on the Sameride app who charged S$38 per passenger on Monday. 

She and her mother were heading to JB City Square from their home in Bukit Timah and decided to use the app as it was more convenient than taking public transport.

She told CNA that her driver admitted that he did not have a PSVL, but she took up the offer anyway as she was in a rush and did not have time to find alternative transport.

“I knew it was a risk because there is no insurance if something happened, but the ride was okay, we got across safely,” said the 41-year-old.

“I think paying S$76 for two people is expensive though. I might not use the app again unless I have really no choice,” she added.

READ: Need for third bridge between Johor and Singapore to ease congestion: Malaysian Home Affairs Minister

CARPOOLING WITHOUT PSVL SHOULD BE ALLOWED: COMMUTER

Mr Razali Tompang, a Malaysian who drives to Singapore from Johor Bahru daily for work, told CNA that he registered as a driver on the app, but withdrew his offer following LTA’s warning.

He said he did not have a PSVL and did not want to risk breaking the law. 

“My objective as a driver was not to make money, but to share costs to travel across,” he said.

Traffic on the Causeway heading back into Singapore. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

However, Mr Razali opined that the app was a wasted opportunity to facilitate carpooling and reduce congestion at the land checkpoints between Singapore and Johor Bahru.

“It is a good way to reduce the number of cars on road," he said. 

Mr Razali is also the administrator for Facebook group The Southern Vengers, a community of Malaysians who commute to Singapore for work from Johor Bahru.

He hoped the authorities would consider permitting commuters who want to carpool to operate without a PSVL license if they are not doing it for commercial reasons. 

“The app is a good initiative. If more people use it, maybe we’ll see less traffic on the Causeway and every one will benefit,” he added. 

Source: CNA/am(tx)

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