Letter from Alvin Chia, secretary of the Public Transport Council published in the TODAY newspaper on 24 January 2014.
I refer to the Voices letters regarding the bus and train fare adjustment. Understandably, commuters would like to have a service quality component added to the fare formula.
However, the Fare Review Mechanism Committee (FRMC) and the Public Transport Council (PTC) are concerned that this may lock us into a downward spiral.
If fares are not adjusted to take into account operating cost increases, the operators would have fewer resources to maintain and improve services, of especial concern because our rail system is ageing rapidly and the finances of the two operators in the bus sector have been in the red in recent years, as fares have not kept up with cost increases.
The FRMC reviewed this and concluded that it is preferable to continue to treat the two issues separately, with service quality issues addressed by the Bus Quality of Service Standards and Rail Operating Performance Standards, wherein the operators are punished for lapses and breakdowns, and supported by a more stringent penalty regime.
The FRMC also recommended that financial penalties should go towards the Public Transport Fund for needy commuters.
The PTC agrees this is a better approach to ensuring the operators pay serious attention to service quality and have the resources to do so.
In considering any fare adjustment, the PTC carefully balances the interests of commuters against the need to ensure the long-term financial viability of the public transport system. We agree particularly that fares must remain affordable.
The PTC therefore decided to approve an overall 3.2 per cent fare increase, a quantum significantly lower than what the fare formula allows (6.6 per cent) and lower than the expected average national wage increase of 4 to 5 per cent last year.
The PTC also decided to implement the full slew of concession enhancements for young children, students, full-time National Servicemen, senior citizens and adult commuters who are heavy users of public transport, as recommended by the FRMC.
With the enhancements and new fare concession schemes for Workfare recipients and people with disabilities to be implemented by the Government, up to a million commuters will benefit.
Targeted help will also be given to needy families.
The PTC mandated the highest contribution ever from the operators to the Public Transport Fund and the Government has set aside S$7.5 million in public transport vouchers from the fund to help low-income households further manage the increase in their transport expenditure.
Overall, we believe there are sufficient safeguards to keep fares affordable. We thank the readers for sharing their views.
TOC note: There is a protest organised for tomorrow, 25 January, Saturday, at Hong Lim Park against the fare hike. Please see details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/611510145562860/?fref=ts