New bill could give the Public Transport Council the discretion to set a pricing policy for fares charged by ride-hailing operators
New Bill seeks to regulate private-hire firms Privater-hire operators may have to spell out components for ride-hail fares and how fares are calculated PHOTO:ST FILE

The Public Transport Council (PTC) will have powers to regulate private-hire vehicle operators under the new Point-to-Point (P2P) Passenger Transport Industry Bill tabled yesterday.

The Bill will give the PTC - which currently regulates bus and train fares - the discretion to set a pricing policy for fares charged by ride-hailing operators such as Grab and Gojek. Operators may have to spell out components for ride-hail fares and how fares are calculated. They may also have to set the maximum and minimum fare ranges.

These regulations reflect some of the suggestions garnered in a public feedback exercise held by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) earlier this year. Right now, ride-hailing operators are free to set their own fares, and how these are set - including during peak hours when so-called surge pricing is likely - is largely opaque.

As part of a move to license P2P passenger services since the arrival of ride-hailing services in 2013, the Government will put street-hail and ride-hail fares under the purview of the PTC.

Although taxi fares are not regulated, the council currently has an overview of fares. Taxi operators must inform the council if they wish to adjust fares. Ride-hailing operators, however, are not required to do the same.

In a review of the P2P passenger service that has taken over a year, the LTA proposes to issue two operating licences - one for street-hail services, and another for ride-hail services. An operator may be allowed to hold two licences. Industry players expect the changes to harmonise regulations governing taxis and private-hire players, and create a more level playing field.

There are currently several differences, ranging from growth in fleet sizes and minimum age of drivers, to statutory lifespan of vehicles and eligibility of drivers who are non-citizens.

Said a Transport Ministry spokesman yesterday: "The P2P transport sector in Singapore, made up of the taxi and private-hire car industries, has evolved significantly in the last few years. Given these changes, the LTA has reviewed the regulations for the P2P sector to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of Singaporeans and our broader transport objectives."

The spokesman said the Bill, which will be debated in Parliament next month, will enable the LTA to structure regulations around services provided, and provide sufficient regulatory oversight to protect the safety and interests of commuters and drivers.

The Bill also seeks to facilitate an open market that supports the development of innovative P2P services.