KUALA LUMPUR — Putrajaya’s taxi reforms to generate more revenue for those in the industry is hitting a speed bump in the form of taxi drivers who complain that a fledgling free bus service, excess taxis and stricter regulations are affecting their income in the capital city.
The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is looking at various options, including setting up a leasing company, to cut the some 60,000 taxi and limousine permits for the Klang Valley while finding ways to ensure most of the taxis are actually driven by their owners rather than operated by companies.
“SPAD will form a company and that company will buy the car, we’ll operate in a sense that we will pay the insurance, the social security (Socso), the EPF (Employees Provident Fund), and we issue the licence to the individuals, not all but those who have suffered these problems.
“So by this, they wouldn’t have to worry about insurance, they wouldn’t have to worry about financing and then they don’t have to worry about the EPF,” SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar told The Malaysian Insider in an interview.
City taxi drivers have been up in arms with SPAD this past month over their woes that include traffic summonses from police, City Hall, SPAD and building owners who have contracts with taxi companies for exclusive transport services apart from the new Go-KL bus service that provides free transport along two city routes.
They said yesterday they want Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha to solve their woes, claiming they had lost faith in Syed Hamid.
The drivers are also bristling over the negative reports on the attitude of taxi drivers in the media, pointing out that if the government paid enough attention to their welfare, city cabbies would be happy to stick to meter charges and behave well when ferrying tourists to their destinations.
But Syed Hamid said despite being regulators, SPAD had been trying to work out issues facing city taxi drivers.
“We are actually facilitators, trying to make sure that taxis are clean, trying to make sure they have enough money, we appreciate the problems, so we would be their best partner because we have no vested interests, just plain regulators,” he said.
But he said some of the issues have roots in the attitude of taxi drivers and commuters who want a better service.
“Here, we’ve got a new dimension now. Office owners, building owners, don’t allow and enter into contract (with taxi service companies). That also these drivers asked us to stop.
“I don’t mind, I don’t agree with the system but there are people who agree. Because one, there’s certainty, two, they are better quality taxis and all sort of things,” Syed Hamid said.
But he hoped the proposed reforms could work within five years to the satisfaction of everybody in the city.
Syed Hamid added that the proposed scheme would only work if SPAD did not have to issue additional licences to avoid oversupplying the taxi industry with more licences, which was already 20 per cent above necessary.
“The exercise we are undertaking is to look at the licences which are not active, or offer letters which have not been activated, and the best way would be to buy all these up and ask people to surrender them.
“But when you buy up, the problem will arise that they know you need the licences and they put ridiculous prices. So, I am not in favour of that model,” he said.
Syed Hamid had also said SPAD was reviewing taxi fares due to rising operating costs such as fuel and spare parts, admitting that taxi drivers have a compelling case for higher fares.
The flag down rate is RM3 for budget taxis for the first two kilometres and passengers are charged 10 sen for every subsequent 115 metres of the journey in the Klang Valley. An extra RM1 is charged for each passenger beyond two and baggage stored in the boot.-TMI