Is Singapore’s rail fare as cheap as what PTC claims?

Is Singapore’s rail fare as cheap as what PTC claims?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the blog post by the Chairman of Public Transport Council, “Comparison of Rail Fares between Singapore and 35 Major Cities“.

In his blogpost, it is said that for a 10km rail journey, Singapore commuters pay S$1.33, which is ranked the 6th cheapest in the chart comparing 36 cities across Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

Only Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen in China and Taipei in Taiwan listed in the chart have lower fares than Singapore for a train trip of the same distance.

But strangely, our neighbouring Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok were not among the other 35 major cities listed in the comparison.


So how much cheaper are those cities compared to Singapore?

Perhaps even stranger – why have four cities in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen) out of the eight cities in Asia?


Besides comparing fares for a 10km train trip, the study also looked at the lowest rail fare in the 36 cities.

Singapore’s lowest train fare is S$0.77 (If you are using a farecard and not via cash), place it 4th among the 36 cities. Only Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Taipei have a lower minimum fare.

“Within Asia, the rail fares in Singapore are amongst the lowest, while rail fares in cities like Tokyo and Seoul lie on the higher end of the spectrum in Asia.” wrote the Chairman in his blogpost.

He added: “When compared to cities in Australia, Europe and North America, rail fares in Singapore are considerably lower.”

With the exception of Taipei, fare levels for the cities were converted to Singapore dollars based on each city’s purchasing power parity (PPP).This accounts for any differences in the strength of currency and cost of living across the region.

The PTC’s blog post comes ahead of an overall fare cut of 4.2 per cent for bus and train trips, which will kick in on Dec 30.”

(Note that the below figures are based on an analysis I did in November 2013)

Fares higher than other developed cities?

The rhetoric and argument now and over the years has been that Singapore’s per trip fares are much cheaper than the per trip fares in other developed cities.

This may be a flawed argument, because hardly anyone (residents) who uses public transport pays per trip fares, in these cities. They usually use annual, 6-monthly or monthly unlimited passes.

Hong Kong monthly pass from S$60+?

In Hong Kong, I understand that an adult can pay just HKD360 (S$60) to 565 (S$92) for a monthly pass extra for unlimited travel on designated lines plus a 25% discount on other travel. So, people in Kong Kong can pay as little as S$60 plus, especially for the poor who can try to limit their travel to within the designated lines.

In comparison, this is as much as about 50% cheaper than Singapore’s monthly unlimited travel pass which cost $120, and arguably cheaper than what an average Singaporean would spend on public transport.

Are other cities more expensive than Singapore?

In Tokyo, I understand that an adult can pay 17,300 yen (S$215) for a monthly pass which is 79% more than Singapore’s.

Another example is New York which has a 30-day pass for US$116.50 (S$165 a month), which is about 37% than Singapore.

As for London, the monthly pass is £124.50, (S$224), putting London at about 86% more expensive than Singapore.

What about adjusting for PPP?

After adjusting for PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) using the same PPP in the FRMC report (2013), the cost for monthly passes in Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo and London becomes S$72 plus, S$135, S$132 and S$174 respectively.

If one were to refer to the cities’ minimum wage and the monthly transport fare.

Hong Kong – S$6 per hour
New York – S$10.3 per hour
Tokyo – S$9 per hour
London – S$13 per hour
Singapore – S$5.9 (taking into account that Singapore does not have a minimum wage, but enforce that cleaners are to be paid $1000 with 42 hours work week)

So, is the comparison with the cities fair? And is Singapore’s monthly fare actually cheaper or in fact less affordable as compared to the other cities?

Sweden and Finland cheaper?

Now that I have analysed the 4 cities cited in the FRMC report (2013) on a PPP adjusted basis, let me move on to some other cities without PPP (because I only have the PPP used in the FRMC report (2013) for the above 4 cities)

An annual pass in Stockholm cost as little as SEK4,990 (S$954 or S$80 a month) for people below 20 or over the age of 65. Other adults pay SEK8,300 (S$1,586 or S$132 monthly).

So, Stockholm is about 58 to 30% cheaper than Singapore. I also understand that it may even be cheaper or free in the smaller towns in Sweden.

While in Finland, an adult pass in Helsinki for 30 days is only 45.9 Euro (S$79), which is 58% cheaper than Singapore’s.

We will see what the PTC have to say more about their findings when the full report of the fare benchmark study is published on its website by 31 Dec.

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