Drivers with ride-sharing firms say many seen at Changi Airport; LTA steps up checks
More Malaysian cars offering private-hire services illegally in Singapore LTA enforcement officers stopping a Malaysia-registered vehicle suspected of providing illegal transport services here. PHOTO: LTA

Drivers with ride-sharing firms say there has been an increase in the number of foreign-registered cars being used for private-hire or taxi services here, with many spotted picking up passengers at Changi Airport.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it has "stepped up checks" on the illegal activity in recent months. It added that 11 drivers of foreign-registered cars were caught in the first 11 months of this year, but the final number to face penalties will depend on ongoing investigations.

The authority said 10 drivers were caught for the whole of last year - more than double the number in 2015 and 2014.

"LTA conducts regular enforcement operations at hot spots - such as Changi Airport, Marina Bay Sands and Ban San Street," an LTA spokesman said. "Individuals who use Malaysia-registered cars to provide such services are liable to a fine not exceeding $3,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both," she noted. "The vehicle used may also be forfeited."

Drivers here say the increase is obvious. Mr Ken Tan, 50, estimated the number has "trebled in the last six months". "We used to see one or two at the airport. Now, we will see six to seven at any one time."

Mr Tan, who drives for a limousine company, said these Malaysian transport service providers typically advertise on social media.

"They're cheaper. But if any accident happens, whether commuters will be covered by insurance remains a question mark," he added. "Also, do we know if the drivers have a criminal record? In Singapore, all drivers are screened before we can get a vocational licence."

Another driver, Mr Kelvin Lam, 43, who drives for Grab, said: "There should be better enforcement. Some of these Malaysian drivers openly tout.

"We invest so much in Changi Airport, it's not right that the first thing visitors see is drivers touting."

When The Straits Times did an onsite check at the airport's Terminal 2 two weeks ago, a number of Malaysian-plated vehicles - mostly large multi-purpose vehicles - were spotted dropping off or picking up passengers outside the arrival hall. But it is not known how many were licensed to provide cross-border ferrying services.

Mr Lam said many of the Malaysian cars are Hyundai Starex, a popular minivan model across the Causeway. He said these do not have the licence decal on their windscreens, which Malaysian taxis and limos offering cross-border ferrying services - but which are still not allowed to ply in Singapore - must display.

Observers said these drivers wait in carparks at Terminal 2 and 3.

"Whenever there is surge pricing, you will see them coming out," Mr Lam said. "Once, I saw five of them at one go."

He has shared a number of videos of these vehicles in operation on a Facebook driver-community page.