SINGAPORE — Ride-hiring app service Grab is now offering its carpooling platform for rides between Johor and Singapore as a free pilot programme, after the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that running a paid cross-border carpooling service is against regulations

The service, GrabHitch JB-SG, was announced with much fanfare on June 13, touting rides that cost S$9 to S$14 between Singapore and the Malaysian state, and was to start on Monday (June 20).

 “Authorities say a paid service would not comply with regulations in S’pore and M’sia”

But the LTA informed Grab that the paid service did not comply with regulations in Singapore and Malaysia. Grab then announced on its website on Saturday that the service would be free for three weeks as a pilot programme, starting on Monday and ending on July 8.

In response to media queries, the LTA said: “Malaysian registered cars are not allowed to provide hire and reward services in Singapore without a public service vehicle licence. Malaysian regulations also do not permit Singaporean registered cars to do the same in Malaysia without a public service vehicle licence.”

An LTA spokesperson added: “Grab should ensure that any cross-border carpool service does not contravene Singaporean or Malaysian regulations.”

GrabHitch, unlike GrabCar, is meant as a social ride-sharing platform rather than a commercial service. Under GrabHitch, a driver will be matched with a passenger heading for the same destination or its vicinity. The app then pre-calculates a fee based on the distance of the ride, average petrol costs and average car depreciation costs.

The cross-border option was set up to allow drivers with extra space in their vehicles to pick up passengers who are also travelling across the Causesway in both directions.

Passengers may pre-book rides up to seven days in advance, and up to 30 minutes before the pickup time by selecting a pickup and drop-off location. Drivers and passengers would be notified when a successful match of the route was found. Fares were to be calculated based on the distance and a fixed cross-border surcharge.

When it announced GrabHitch JB-SG, Grab said that the trips were priced at an average of S$12 for affordability. It even provided a table showing fares for popular routes.

On its website, Grab said it is “engaging with the LTA in Singapore and regulatory authorities in Malaysia on the use of carpooling solutions to improve connectivity between SG and JB”.

“Through this fare-free cross-border pilot programme, we hope to be able to alleviate traffic congestion and provide commuters with a fast, comfortable and convenient way to travel across the border,” the company said. When contacted, a spokesperson declined to comment further. The company will review the results of the free pilot programme after three weeks.