Grab's carpooling service goes cross-border between Singapore, Malaysia

Private car owners can offer rides between Singapore and the Malaysian state of Johor Bahru under the ride-sharing operator's GrabHitch service, with one-way fare charges starting form S$9 and 9 ringgit.

Grab has extended its ride-sharing service to bring passengers across Singapore borders into the Malaysian state of Johor Bahru, offering drivers who ply the route a way to earn some extra cash.

The ride-hailing operator, which services are currently available in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, said Monday the new cross-border option for its GrabHitch carpooling service would provide a cheaper alternative for frequent drivers and passengers travelling between Singapore and its northern neighour.

Citing stats from Singapore's Immigration & Checkpoints Authority and Malaysia's Immigration Department, Grab said about 400,000 commuters cross the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints daily. It also pointed to its own research, which revealed that 89 percent of private car owners expressed willingness to offer others a lift while 88 percent or commuters said likewise to hitching a ride between the two cities. Both cited cost-sharing as the biggest reason to do so, Grab said.

Head of GrabHitch, Ngiam Xin Wei, said in a statement: "The high cost of travelling, frequent congestion, and lack of point-to-point transportation between Johor Bahru and Singapore are compelling reasons for us to introduce the GrabHitch JB-SG service."

Available for booking from June 20, the new service would include popular destinations in both cities as pickup locations, such as Singapore's Orchard Road and Johor Bahru's City Square. One-way fare charges would range from S$9 and 9 ringgit to S$14 and 24 ringgit, depending on the pickup and dropoff locations, and were calculated based on the distance of the ride and a fixed cross-border surcharge.

In comparison, Grab said, a typical round-trip cost of driving between the two cities was estimated to be S$50 or 150 ringgit, including vehicle entry permit charges, as well as fuel and toll costs.

Passengers would be able to book their rides up to seven days in advance or 30 minutes before the pickup time. An alert would be sent to drivers and passengers when a successful match for the desired route had been identified.

Ride-sharing operators such as Grab and Uber in Singapore had been looking to acquire new cars to add to its fleet, adding new tension to the country's fortnightly certificate of entitlement (COE) bidding process. A limited number of COEs is available during each tender and is required for anyone who owns and uses a vehicle in the city-state. Each certificate lasts 10 years, after which it can be renewed for another five or 10 years should the vehicle owner decide against acquiring a new car.

Taxis were previously part of the COE bidding process, but were removed and slotted into a different category since 2012. With the likes of Uber and Grab now joining the fray, concerns had emerged that this would push prices up and add pressure on private car owners bidding for COEs

In response, Singapore's Land Transport Authority said it was monitoring the situation, but letting market forces determine COE prices. It added that growth within the private-hire car market would offer "more point-to-point transport options for commuters", hence, might reduce demand for private cars in future.

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