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Taxi! Taxi-cabs that have disappeared from Singapore Streets

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

During phase 2 of our new normal, my mentee, Douglas, has kept busy. I started him on Taxis of SG as he likes to draw vehicles. Remember our childhood days when we used to hail "Taxi!" and share them with other commuters? In the late eighties, private radio taxi organisations operated their services from these make-shift huts. Fondly, The Sembawang Hill Estate Radio Taxi Service in Jalan Leban is still a living heritage today, though non-operational! The Boon Lay Garden Radio Taxi Service still operates. Got Douglas to quickly sketch this before it disappears from its locale at Upper Thomson- Sembawang Hill Estate. Happily collaging his sketches and dreaming of wares to market...see his other art-inspired wares to market here

The "Call a Taxi" service started its fleet of black and yellow taxis; most "were stationed at Raffles Place, General Post Office, Grand Hotel de l’Europe, Adelphi Hotel, Raffles Hotel and the company’s garage at 1 Orchard Road, ready to pick up passengers. The fare was 40 cents per mile – the same as when taxi services were introduced a decade earlier."

The first yellow top taxis were brought into Singapore in 1933 by the Wearne Brothers, founded in 1906. We researched it and tried to reproduce it here with its winged tips!

The "Yellow Top Cabs – launched by Universal Cars Limited claimed to have the lowest metered rates for closed cabs – made its debut in Singapore in 1933. Advertisements for Yellow Top Cabs between 1933 and 1934 sang praises of their cleanliness, efficiency and reliability.

Image from National Archives: The cabs were available at taxi stands – at Raffles Place, Collyer Quay, Battery Road, Raffles Hotel, Stamford Road and Orchard Road – and could also be booked by telephone. Source Biblioasia

"After World War II, many private cars were used by unlicensed taxi drivers to ply the streets for hire. These illegal “pirate taxis” caused problems for both licensed taxi drivers as well as the authorities, although it was argued that they provided a much-needed public service.

In 1970, the National Trades Union Congress started its Comfort taxi service and offered pirate taxi drivers the opportunity to join its operations. A total ban on pirate taxis came into force in July the following year." Source Biblioasia

1940s – The First London-type Taxi We reproduced this from relevant images of old.

An Austin 1949 model arrived in Singapore in November 1949 as the colony’s first ever London-type taxi, causing quite a stir as pedestrians and passengers gazed at the vehicle with interest. Designed with a capacity to carry five passengers, the new taxi, however, was out of reach for most drivers due to its high cost of $7,000.

Taximeters introduced in 1950s

In 1970, the NTUC Workers’ Co-operative Commonwealth for Transport was established with a fleet of 1,000 taxis. It would later become NTUC-Comfort, the largest player in the local taxi-cab industry for decades. Taxi licenses became non-transferable in 1973; the new taxi licenses were only issued to NTUC-Comfort. Source - Remember Singapore

1980s | Air-conditioned taxis were introduced in 1977 In 1982, radios were allowed to be installed in the taxis. In the same year, front-seat seat belts were made compulsory. In the early eighties, NTUC-Comfort made a step ahead of others by changing all their taxis’ mechanical taximeters to electronics ones. By 1984, all taxis in Singapore were required to be fitted with the electronic meters.

Toyota Corona Taxis - SBS Taxi re-interpreted from old photos

There were 11,668 taxis running on Singapore roads by 1985, shared by the Singapore Commuters, NTUC-Comfort, Singapore Airport Bus Services (SABS) and SBS Taxi. NTUC-Comfort continued to own the largest taxi fleet, with almost 6,300 cars, whereas there were only 300 taxis under SABS.

SBS Taxi, a new player joining the market just two years earlier, launched their Toyota Corona taxis in white and red colours, the same signature colours used for their SBS buses.

Stay tuned as Douglas works his pen for wheels of yesteryears!

Please also shop at this online social enterprise store and uplift a special artist!

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