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Despite promising sweeping changes to the taxi and ride-sharing industry, the Land Public Transport Commission’s (SPAD)’s cabinet-approved Taxi Industry Transformation Programme (TITP) has been met by a lukewarm response from taxi drivers and operators, according to reports from The Star and The Malay Mail.

Yesterday, SPAD held a two-hour town hall meeting with stakeholders – including taxi and ride-sharing drivers – to explain the 11 initiatives that are aimed at settling the ongoing feud between the two camps. Among the regulations, ride-sharing services like Uber and Grab will be legalised and regulated, requiring drivers to have a SPAD-issued driver’s card and vehicles to undergo compulsory road-worthiness inspections.

Additionally, all cars with an ASEAN NCAP rating of at least three stars will be eligible to be used as taxis, while taxi operators will be required to provide drivers with a rent-free day for Puspakom inspection, annual and sick leave, first party vehicle insurance and deposit refund at the end of the contract. Driver screenings will also be more stringent, and fare structures will be revised for consistency.

Big Blue Taxi Services founder Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail dismissed the proposed legislations, calling them “nothing new” and claiming that allowing any car to be used as public transport will cause the taxi industry to decline. “This initiative looks more like they want to aid the Uber industry and not the taxi industry,” he said.

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He said that the ruling would be misused by ride-sharing drivers, as SPAD has not set specific regulations on which types of cars can be used – defeating the previous colour coding system set by the government. “I am really unhappy about this. They can’t do this because this means your [Perodua] Myvi or Kancil can become a taxi. So when general cars become taxis, what happens to our industry?” he asked.

“[Prime minister] Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had previously said one taxi, one type and 1Malaysia, where is all that now?” he continued. “When people come to Malaysia, they know that the blue taxi is executive and reliable and [is available as an] MPV, but now this initiative is mixing it all up. They make small things into big issues but overlook the more serious matters.”

Shamsubahrin also urged Najib to invest more in SPAD to enable the commission to more strictly enforce parties looking to take advantage of ride-sharing services. He added that the TITP should have focused on improving other aspects such as ensuring proper insurance for drivers.

“I have asked to discuss about the real transformation. What needs to be done? It is time to wisely spend on the industry,” he said. “What I want is for the government to invest more into enforcement and infrastructure and improve the income of taxi drivers by these enforcements.”

Meanwhile, Sector Taxi group secretary Apriman Dalias lamented the liberalisation of allowed taxi models, saying, “Are we, as Malaysians, going to be allowed to be shamed by foreign cars? Any country that makes their own cars uses [them as] taxis.”

Apriman added that the proposal would cause Malaysian models other than the traditionally-used Proton sedan models to be sidelined, as most of these vehicles are not made to the specifications required by SPAD to be used as a public transport vehicle.

“Here in Malaysia, the local cars [don’t] follow the specifications to be made as taxis. The cars that will be taken to be made as cabs would be cheap and low maintenance [such as] Japanese cars and in the end, local cars [would] be abandoned,” he said.

Malaysian Taxi Drivers’ Transformation Association (PERS1M) president Kamaruddin Mohd Hussain said the proposal would put taxi and ride-sharing services under the same system, which would jeopardise the latter.

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“The new legislation will allow services like Uber and Grab to operate under the same structure as taxis and this will kill the industry due to ‘overflow,'” he said. “Approximately 150,000 permits will be approved, which will create an excess in taxis and an imbalance between users and drivers. Overall, we do not agree with the initiatives proposed by SPAD.”

Klang Valley Taxi Drivers Action Committee chairman Zailani Isausuludin urged ride-sharing services to be banned until new laws are passed by the parliament, saying that allowing them to operate would not only destroy the taxi industry, but also cause transport laws to be abused.

“What we want now is that Uber and Grab do not abuse the law. They have no licence and are not legalised yet. We want them banned immediately until the laws are amended,” he said.