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Singapore govt rolls out additional S$112 million support package to help taxi, private-hire drivers

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The SRF helps taxi and private-hire car drivers defray business costs by providing monthly payouts of S$300 for each vehicle a month. — TODAY file pic
The SRF helps taxi and private-hire car drivers defray business costs by providing monthly payouts of S$300 for each vehicle a month. — TODAY file pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 15 — The Government will set aside another S$112 million in financial relief for taxi operators and private-hire firms to tide them through the Covid-19 pandemic, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said today.

This sum is on top of the S$77 million (RM234 million) support package announced in February and another S$95 million that was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in March.

In a statement today, LTA said that S$106 million of the current tranche of relief will go towards a six-month extension of the Special Relief Fund (SRF), which will be extended to March next year.

The SRF helps taxi and private-hire car drivers defray business costs by providing monthly payouts of S$300 for each vehicle a month.

Drivers who are now receiving the payouts will continue to receive them during the extended period.

More than 40,000 drivers are expected to qualify for the relief fund due to the extension, LTA said.

Taxi operators have also pledged to continue providing matching rental rebates worth an extra S$29 million to their hirers, the authority added.

Besides that, LTA will also extend the nine-month operator licence fee waiver by another three months at a cost of about S$1.2 million.

Separately, the authorities will extend the liberalised point-to-point regulations so that taxi and private-hire car drivers can continue to use their vehicles for delivery services.

The liberalised regulations will be extended for another year until September 2021.

LTA said that while the resumption of some activities after the circuit breaker that restricted activities has increased the demand for taxis and private-hire cars, the overall ridership remains significantly lower compared to the period before the coronavirus outbreak.

Trips are also shorter, resulting in lower fares every trip, it said, and point-to-point ridership is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels in the near term.

In a separate media statement today, the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) and the National Taxi Association (NTA) said that many drivers have asked for the support package to be extended because their earnings have taken a hard hit during this crisis.

“Even though the economy is opening, it has not yet returned to pre-Covid levels,” the associations said. “They are worried that without the (support scheme), there will be a severe drop in earnings”.

Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Transport, echoed these sentiments. In a Facebook post today, she said that the point-to-point sector is still not back to what it was before the pandemic despite the resumption of some activities.

The associations added that they welcome the latest move by the Government to continue supporting the sector. “We appreciate how the tripartite partners have been engaging our drivers on the ground through several dialogue sessions and noting their concerns,” they said.

The associations have also been working with training providers to curate courses for their drivers to upgrade their skills.

Their drivers have gone for courses under the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Training Fund to earn as they train, picking up skills in security and hairdressing to diversify their income streams and have alternative transition plans.

“We hope that with the co-operation of the public to keep community cases low, more restrictions can be lifted to stimulate activities that will benefit our drivers greatly,” they said. — TODAY

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