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    Dec 10, 2014

    Premium cabs behind taxi jam at airport?

    UNHAPPY that they were limited to two parking spaces to pick up passengers at Changi Airport, some 50 premium taxi drivers reportedly drove to the airport and created a jam by forming a long queue.

    A queue was said to have formed at around 11pm on Monday and another at 1am, reported Shin Min Daily News yesterday.

    It is understood that another queue was planned for 11.45pm last night.

    The incident is said to have arisen from a new trial which started at Changi Airport Terminal 1, in which taxis are categorised as "premium taxis" and "regular taxis".

    A Changi Airport Group (CAG) spokesman told My Paper that under the trial, premium taxis queue separately from regular cabs between 3pm and 1.30am. There is also a dedicated queue for passengers who wish to travel via premium taxi.

    In the taxi holding area, regular and premium taxis are segregated into two lanes "to ensure efficient dispatch of taxis", he said.

    He added that the trial was done "to provide commuters with clearer taxi choices while optimising operational efficiency in dispatching taxis". The trial will continue until Jan 7.

    One cab driver, who did not want to be named, told Shin Min that Chrysler, Vellfire, MaxiCab and Mercedes taxis were classified as premium taxis.

    "Drivers of these cabs have only two parking spaces to wait for passengers at the airport, so they will have to wait for a longer time," the driver said.

    It is understood that there are signs beside the taxi parking spaces to inform passengers of the different prices between premium and regular taxis.

    The driver added: "After many people realise the difference in prices, they would wait for regular taxis instead." Premium taxis can have higher fares than regular ones.

    One cabby, Mr Hong, 52, said that some cab drivers unhappy with the trial "communicated through a WhatsApp group and went to queue at the airport, preventing regular taxis from entering and creating a mess".

    Based on footage that a reader provided Shin Min, the taxi queue appeared to comprise many Mercedes taxis. Many cabbies also sounded their horns. A similar video was posted on citizen journalism website Stomp.

    Some drivers of regular taxis approve of the trial. A driver of a regular Comfort taxi, Mr Li, 52, said that if premium and regular taxis share the same queue and passengers choose not to ride in premium taxis - as is the case for many of them - the taxi holding area would be full of premium taxis.

    On the congestion matter, National Taxi Association (NTA) executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said it was not clear if the taxi drivers deliberately caused the jam or if it was a queue issue.

    Mr Ang said the new system might seem unfair to drivers of some taxi models. But he hoped that after improvements were made, it would improve service for customers and result in fairer treatment for taxi drivers.

    The CAG spokesman said that before the trial, NTA and various taxi companies were consulted, and gave "valuable feedback and expressed support for the trial".

    He said the system worked well after it started, especially during the evening peak from 4pm to 6pm, "with a healthy demand for premium taxis".

    Acknowledging the unhappiness of some premium taxi drivers, the spokesman said CAG "will monitor the situation, make ground adjustments and work with the relevant stakeholders to enhance the effectiveness of the system".