Private-hire operators may get licence to offer street-hail services

Hail a Grab or Gojek car on the street?

This may be possible down the road if private-hire operators apply for the new Street Hail Service Operator Licence (SSOL), or partner a taxi company to offer the service.

In a public consultation as part of its ongoing review of the taxi and private-hire industries, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has proposed two different licences for street-hail and ride-hail businesses. The latter governs rides which are booked via phone or apps.

SSOL licensees are allowed to provide street-hail services.

"Similar to the taxi operator regulations today, SSOL licensees will have to own their vehicles and maintain a minimum fleet size," the LTA said in its consultation paper.

"LTA is also studying the possibility of lowering the minimum fleet size required."

Currently, street hails account for 70 per cent of Singapore's total taxi trips of about 650,000 a day.

As the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore has outlawed exclusivity clauses - allowing drivers to drive for any operator or use any app they wish - observers expect the lines between taxis and private-hire vehicles operated by firms such as Grab and Gojek to blur.

 

In a market report on ComfortDelGro last month, equities research house Macquarie highlighted "the risk of private-hires acquiring a street-hail licence".

When asked for comments, Grab said that it was not planning a street-hail option.

But a spokesman for rival Gojek said: "I think it's a bit early for us to comment on something like this, but we're always open to exploring how we can grow our service offering, particularly if it's useful for users."

In yet another sign that competition for drivers is heating up, private-hire players are adding European makes to their fleets.

To entice drivers, the industry has placed orders for hundreds of BMW, Opel and Renault cars in recent weeks.

The Straits Times understands that at least 200 BMW 216i MPVs will be supplied by BMW agent Performance Motors, and 1,000 Opel Insignia sedans (both petrol and diesel variants) will be supplied by Opel agent Auto Germany.

The purchases come as the market is still flooded with unused private-hire cars. Hundreds of such unhired cars - mostly vehicles left behind by Uber - are parked in places such as the Singapore Sports Hub and Carros Centre, a mega auto facility in Sungei Kadut.

Industry estimates put the fleet of unused cars at more than 2,000.

When The Straits Times checked last month, most of the vehicles were coated in a thick layer of dust.

Christopher Tan