More drivers wanted as taxi and ride-hailing traffic rebounds

SINGAPORE – The number of taxi and private hire car journeys appears on track to return to the highest levels since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in February 2020, with ridership figures rebounding at the end of last year as the government eased pandemic measures.

Figures from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) show average daily taxi and private hire car journeys increased by almost 30,000 journeys to 563,000 in November, coinciding with a relaxation of Covid-19 measures that have allowed social groups of up to five to meet outdoors and dine in restaurants.

Although December figures are still being processed by authorities, taxi and ride-sharing operators have said passenger numbers that month are expected to be close to 600,000, or 80% of what they were. before Covid-19.

The festive season, coupled with greater certainty about the Omicron variant, prompted many people to leave. The previous pandemic peak was also reached in December 2020, with 610,000 movements per day.

But this recovery is accompanied by a contrary trend. As has been the case for the past two years, the number of drivers on the roads has continued to decline.

The taxi population in November stood at 81% of pre-Covid-19 levels. Private rental cars accounted for 88% of this figure in 2019.

Ms Yeo Wan Ling, an adviser to the National Taxi Association (NTA) and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA), said the industry was optimistic about the new year.

“We hope there may be increased demand for taxi services and private hire cars now that working from home is no longer the norm and more employees are expected to travel to their offices,” a- she added.

“As the economy recovers, we expect ridership to eventually return to pre-Covid-19 levels.”

At its lowest during the May 2020 circuit breaker, ridership in taxis and private rental vehicles fell to 26% of that of 2019.

It then gradually recovered and sought to return to 2019 levels until the Delta variant emerged and the government reimposed heightened alert measures in May.

Among these was a reduction in the size of social groups from five to two people. Meals in restaurants have also been halted due to the risk of transmission from unmasked diners.

In November, after the overall number of infections stabilized and hospitals were not overwhelmed, some of the measures were eased.

ComfortDelGro Taxi, Singapore’s largest taxi operator with 10,000 taxis, said taxi ridership increased by 5.4% last year compared to 2020.

He sent out a Facebook post calling on new drivers to join his ranks as demand grew, offering them up to $5,500 in incentives.

He also confirmed that taxi bookings on his app were up 25% month-on-month in December last year. On December 17, it recorded the highest number of trips of the whole year.

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