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The number of reported taxi fare evasion cases fell by 40% last year, amid an environment of stiffer penalties for offenders and fewer cabs on the road.

14 May 2018 | Local News : Singapore

There were 233 fare evasion cases last year, down from 390 in 2016, according to figures released to The Sunday Times by the Public Transport Council (PTC). Of the 233 incidents reported last year, fares were recovered in 134 instances, while 18 of the cases are still under investigation. The Sunday Times understands that no action is taken in cases with insufficient evidence.

Offenders now face a fine of $200 for the first offence and $400 for the second offence
A PTC spokesman told The Sunday Times the drop could be due to stiffer penalties for fare cheats that came into effect in May 2016.

"Offenders now face a fine of $200 for the first offence and $400 for the second offence, on top of the restitution payment for the unpaid fare," he said. Fare dodgers can face prosecution if they do not cough up what they owe, or if they repeat the offence.

National Taxi Association (NTA) Executive Adviser Ang Hin Kee said the shrinking taxi population and declining taxi ridership - with the advent of private-hire car services - could also be behind the drop. Taxi numbers fell from 27,534 in 2016 to 21,746 now, while taxi ridership decreased 18% last year, according to a PTC survey.

"Last year many taxi drivers took on jobs through Grab, where the payments are through credit card," said Mr. Ang, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport. "Fewer cash transactions mean fewer chances for fare evasion."

The advent of private-hire car services and fewer cash transactions could also be behind the drop
Taxi giant ComfortDelGro said it has not received any fare evasion reports from its cashless payment options, which include digital wallet apps such as Alipay and DBS PayLah. The NTA has been advocating the use of inward-facing cameras since 2015 and these could also have helped to deter fare dodgers.

Last month, the Personal Data Protection Commission issued guidelines on the use of such cameras intaxis and private-hire cars. However, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has warned drivers against installing them without its approval, adding that it is currently drawing up rules governing their use.

"Besides fare cheats, cameras can also address issues of assault," said Mr. Ang. Last month, IT Manager Gareth John was fined $4,000 for voluntarily causing hurt to cabby Ng Kian Leong. In August 2016, John punched Mr. Ng in the chest and threatened to kill him, after vomiting in the 39-year old cabby's taxi and walking off without paying the fare or cleaning fee.

Cabby Randy Tan, however, feels an outward-facing camera may be sufficient to deter fare cheats. "It can capture passengers' faces before they board," said the 58-year old, who has been cheated five times in his four years as a taxi driver. In the first three months of this year, there were 53 fare evasion cases reported. Fares were recovered for 18 of these cases, while 33 cases are still under investigation.
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