Pay more for buses and trains

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The Public Transport Council has approved a 1 per cent increase in bus and train fare. This is less than half the amount sought by SBS and SMRT when they submitted their applications for fare adjustments, however the increment is still met with much disagreement by the public.

After weeks of public uproar when SBS and SMRT submitted their applications to increase the transport fare, it is finally decided.  The Public Transport Council has approved a 1 per cent increase in bus and train fares despite commuter grouses over issues such as service disruptions, unpredictable bus arrivals, poor customer service and over-crowdedness.

The rise, which translates roughly to two cents more per ride for adults using ezlink card, one cent more for senior citizens with concessionary cards, and 10 cents more for cash payments, will take effect on Oct 8.  The increase is scheduled to coincide with the opening of the rest of the Circle MRT Line, and is expected to affect nearly nine out of 10 commuters.

In July this year, both SBS and SMRT cited significant cost pressures as the reason for seeking fare adjustments.  Despite increased efforts to lower costs and increase productivity, energy and manpower costs continue to escalate prompting them to apply for a maximum fare adjustment of 2.8 per cent.

SMRT told Channelnewsasia that energy costs rose 17.5 per cent to S$122.4 million as of this March, due mainly to higher electricity and diesel prices, as well as the expansion of the rail network — with the opening of Circle Line Phase One and Two.  More staff also had to be hired to operate additional train and bus trips to meet rising commuting demand.  To top it off, manpower costs also increased as a result of a higher employer’s CPF contribution rate, from 14.5 per cent to 15 per cent in September 2010, and to 15.5 per cent in March 2011.  Similarly, SBS Transit said it is also facing costs pressures for fuel and energy, on top of investments in new buses to renew its fleet.  The renewal exercise first began in 2006. Last year alone, some S$268 million was spent on another 600 buses to be delivered in 2011 and 2012.

Although the fare rise is less than half what the transport operators had applied for, it is still met with much disapproval from the public.  This is despite Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew’s attempts to placate commuters by promising higher service standards and increased bus capacity.  Additionally, SMRT has announced that it will add 119 train trips each week on the North-South East-West (NSEW) Lines to shorten waiting times during non-peak hours on weekdays and on Sundays. It will also extend the peak hours on the Changi Airport extension by 30 minutes between 8.00am and 9.00am.  No mention of other measures to improve general customer service standards as well as peak-period trips has been announced.

The fare hike increase would mean a small but significant increase in each family’s monthly expenses.  Parents such as Ms Nuraini, a young SAHM with 3 kids, said ‘the fare increase might be considerably small but when you add it all up, it is quite a significant amount of the family’s expenses.  Next year, my second daughter will start pre-school and it is three bus stops away from our house.  I foresee us forking out even more money when this happens.’

She continued to say, ‘we are average Singaporeans, earning average pay but increments like these can affect us directly when you sum it all up.’

Meanwhile, working mum, Jackie Seah believed that the price increase would not significantly affect her family of three but she does not see a reason why it should happen.  She said, ‘we pay more but there is no improvement to the system.  I would expect to see a less crowded train and faster bus services in the future.’

At a 2 cents increase per ride for adults, whether or not it is a significant amount depends on your perceptions.  So, we would like to hear from you.  What do you think of the increment and how does it affect your family?

Source: ST

Photo credit: Stephanie Yeow

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