Article courtesy of AsiaOne:
COMMUTERS who cheat on bus and taxi fares could end up behind bars under proposed legislation to stamp out a problem that has dogged Singaporean transport operators for years.
Bus companies, for example, lose an estimated $9 million a year to fare cheats.
The penalties aimed at protecting bus firms and cabbies against cheats are similar to those provided by the Rapid Transit Systems Act for rail operators.
Typically, a dishonest commuter taps his ez-link card on the exit reader well before his intended stop. This way, he is charged a lower fare.
Under proposed amendments to the Public Transport Council Act introduced in Parliament yesterday, bus commuters found by council-appointed inspectors to have paid incorrect fares will face a penalty charge.
Those who fail to pay this yet-to-be-determined charge face fines of up to $1,000. Repeat offenders face up to $2,000 in fines and risk a jail term of up to six months.
SBS Transit spokesman Tammy Tan said: 'The proposed changes take into account the fact that our drivers get cheated, whether intentionally or not. While the majority of our customers do not cheat, there is a small proportion who do, and they are penalising those who pay the full fare.'
Currently, those caught underpaying bus fares will only be required to make up the difference, said Ms Tan, who hopes the proposed changes 'will deter incidences of fare misuse'.
Those who cheat cabbies will be dealt with more swiftly.
They immediately face a fine of $1,000 for the first offence, and $2,000 or a jail term of up to six months for subsequent offences.
'The new section 24D criminalises the failure to pay taxi fares,' says an explanatory note accompanying the proposed legislation.
According to ComfortDelGro, which controls 77 per cent of Singapore's 22,000 taxis, its cabbies face more than 40 cases of non-payment a month.
Veteran cabby C K Chan, 53, said he feels powerless when a fare does not pay. 'I think some of these people know that we can't do anything to them. This new law should make things better.'
Other proposed amendments include a five-year operator licence for bus companies.
Currently, bus operators apply for annual route licences. The extra requirement is expected to give the Public Transport Council more teeth to enforce service standards.