SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE ROAD TRAFFIC AMENDMENT BILL
1. The rise of Uber and Grab is welcomed by many. It provides an alternative to those who want chauffeured cars, and it also provides additional income to those who are willing to work hard. However, for the safety of all commuters and other road users, It is good that we put in place some form of regulations on the operators of private hire cabs and its drivers. The private hire drivers should go through proper training, adhere to certain rules while carrying passengers and most of all be screened to ensure that only those with good character are given the licence. What I hope is that the service quality will improve now that there is more competition. The improvements in service will also go some way in contributing to the government’s car-light policy as hopefully more people will opt for public transport.
2. Having said that, I would like to raise the following questions.
a. Firstly, is there any change in the minimum age of drivers of Uber or Grab? Currently, those as young as 21 can drive them, and based on feedback, many residents feel they are too young. Whereas for taxi drivers, they must be 30 years old at least.
b. Secondly, many taxi drivers feedback that their livelihood is affected and they need more help from taxi companies. Taxi companies should re-examine their business models to address this. I would like to applaud TransCab for offering new rentals, and SMRT for allowing taxi drivers to rent taxis by the hour.
Perhaps more can be done. To the passengers, what they normally consider are speed and fare- the cars that can come the fastest and is the cheapest. To the taxi drivers, their income also depends on two variables, rental and taxi fares, both fixed by the taxi companies. I would like to urge companies to see how they can reduce their rental and fares. For example in Tokyo, they recently amended their base taxi fare from 730 yen to 430 yen, a 40% reduction!
Another thing taxi companies could do is to get rid of all forms of surcharges. Hopefully this can make taxis more competitive, so taxi drivers’ income will not be affected so much.
3. Next is infrastructure: what is the Ministry doing to improve certain infrastructure to cope with the higher number of such private hire cars on the road? For example, will these private hire cars be allowed to use the taxi stands to alight and pick-up passengers? If so, many of our taxi stands are often choked with a long line of cabs. Sometimes the queue tails back to a turning traffic-light junction. Thus, even other motorists are unable to turn and this results in a traffic snarl. For example, it is an almost daily occurrence at the taxi stand at Bugis Junction where taxis queuing to go into the taxi bay cause a tailback, and it gets worse with buses and delivery vans all in the line.
Most of our taxi stands cater to just three to four taxis, and we may need to review future taxi stands when we build them.
4. We now also know that there are private car operators who are ferrying school children to and from school, in direct competition with school bus operators. I am all for competition so that there is no monopoly for one group of people. But because schoolchildren need to be with trustworthy people and safe drivers at all times, we should look into the safety and security of such arrangements. How is the Ministry to regulate this group of car hire operators?
5. Next I would like to ask the Minister is there any restriction on the nationality of the drivers of these private hire cars? There was talk that Malaysians are coming here to drive these cars while on social visit pass. Is this allowed? If it’s not, is there enforcement taken and how many such illegal drivers have been prosecuted?
6. Another point I want to raise is the question of illegal modifications of motor vehicles. I hope the Ministry will be very strict with cars which are being used for private hire to ensure that the passengers are not exposed to any danger arising from such modifications. Some of these modifications would allow drivers to drive at very dangerous speeds, putting passengers at risk. Most importantly, the insurance for liability maybe void arising from modifications.
7. Please allow me to summarise in Chinese. 交通部立法管制私人出租车，希望能改善消费者享有的服务和安全水平。有几个方面，希望政府能重视。
8. Thank you and I support the amendments.