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Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew: Quality of service is the real challenge

The following is Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew's Facebook note.

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Thank you for your comments, feedback and suggestions. Many have expressed concern and wondered whether fares would increase by 2.8% as per the applications by SBST and SMRT under the fare adjustment formula. Let me reassure you that the Public Transport Council has been judicious in approving fare increases over the years as we can see from the data below.

I know that the PTC looks out for the interests of commuters in all fare reviews. The fare cap system itself ensures that SMRT and SBST cannot increase fares beyond the cap. And, if there is no inflation and no wage increase for the year, the formula allows the PTC to impose a fare reduction of 1.5% on the operators. Hence, they know they have to improve productivity and innovate. Such measures have helped to increase their revenue (and hence profits) through non-fare sources. I checked and found that close to 45% of SMRT’s operating profit and 50% of SBST’s operating profit in the two recent years came from non-fare sources which include rental and advertising.

While we ponder over the fare adjustment, let me share that it is the Quality of Service (QOS) delivered by the two operators that I am paying the most attention to. Improving capacity, addressing crowdedness on buses and trains, frequency and reliability of service – these are among the key aspects. I have experienced the discomfort and frustrations that commuters faced because of the congestion and the sometimes unreliable service and I share your desire to see improvements to our public transport.

The operators SMRT and SBST have added a total of 590 weekly trips from Mar 2011. There will be further improvements later this year when more trains are added. Since LTA began the regular quarterly bus improvement process with the operators in June last year, 64 bus services were improved. Frankly, much more needs to be done. While we are already running trains at the limit our signalling equipment currently allow during peak hours, we are examining how much further to shorten the intervals between trains during off-peak period. The LRT system at Bukit Panjang needs to be significantly improved and I will find an occasion to share more with you soon. Our current QOS standards for buses is not sufficiently stringent. MOT and LTA are in the midst of a study on how to tighten this. We will pay particular attention to feeder services. To bring about these improvements, we will need to increase the number of buses and the government will work with the operators to make sure this is done.

Let me end here for the time being. I will share with you on another occasion some transport systems which are doing well and others which are not doing so well and why. Good night.