Minister of Transport Khaw Boon Wan during Parliament on 7 November (Source: CNA).

Khaw Boon Wan says cheap fares are popular but not sustainable. Gets whacked by netizens

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament on Wednesday (7 March) that the fare formula for public transport is being reviewed to better track total costs, as the Ministry of Transportation (MOT)’s budget rises for upcoming infrastructure upgrades.

He said that while Singapore’s transport fares are currently “affordable”, the Government also needs to ensure the sustainability of the transport network.

“We must be careful that (fares) are not priced too cheaply, as maintaining a high-quality transport system requires resources. Cheap fares are popular, but they are not sustainable,” Mr Khaw said.

He then noted that the current formula is “inadequate” and the Public Transport Council (PTC) is reviewing it to take into account “total costs”, saying, “I am confident that they can work out a fair and sustainable arrangement. Please support the PTC when they make their recommendations.”

The minister then said that it would be “a disaster” for public transport subsidies to spike against declining revenue looking at how massive investments are being made to improve the transport system.

“Over the past five years, improvements to public transport services have increased operating costs by about 60 per cent. One major contributing factor is the large increase in network capacity as we opened new lines and added more buses and trains,” he said.

“This huge cost increase has been borne by the Government. Against such rising cost, fares have gone down by 2 per cent over the same period. Every dollar spent on transport is a dollar less for other expenditure – like schools, healthcare and security,” he said.

Mr Khaw, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, said that MOT’s budget is now the second largest among ministries, after the Ministry of Defence and ahead of the health ministry, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Education.

Many netizens reacted negatively to Mr Khaw’s statement.

Ng Boon Siang wrote, “”High pay package are popular, but they are not sustainable,” says Singaporeans. The Ministers pay package formula MUST be reviewed to “better track total costs”.”

Rocky Renga wrote, “High salaries which are apparently too high is popular only in the cabinet, but not sustainable for the general population. Bloody clown talking nonsense again.”

Leon Khow wrote, “Frequent train breakdowns are not popular but they getting to be regular. And that is also not sustainable.”

Bryen Yap wrote, “Public transport. Public health care. Which part of public he don’t understand.
If all of you, voted for him and pay him millions. And yet he can only suggest up price, I don’t know what the heck u all voting for. No need pay millions to employ.
Get a bangala also can. Outsource our MPs.”

Melissa Peck wrote, “It’s not sustainable for Singaporeans to keep you in office as well.”

Max Zavier wrote, “Not sustainable? Ministers’ pay (highest in the world!) is even more unsustainable! Why not cut minister pay to sustain public transport?”

Henry Leong wrote, “Better don’t complain about increases or else the disgraceful lady minister will ask you to apologise.”

Ho Samuel wrote, “Actually hor if minister cut pay by 50%, Singapore can sustain cheap transport fares and solve some Healthcare issues too. I’m sure the ministers wun resort to corruption since they are all patriots. The reason why we give them good pay was to make sure they dun turn to graft and I’m sure they wun mind also la, right? Unless u tell me their patriotism has a price tag.”

Chen Xuan Kai wrote, “”Annual NDP performances are vibrant and flashy, but they are wasteful and expensive”, says a skeptical Singaporean. The ministers should review the multi million dollar expenditures that are funnelled into the NDP to “better track total costs”.”

Felix Toh wrote, “In the first place, public transport should never have been listed. Once it is listed, it’s priorities changes.
It no longer stick to its original purpose of serving the public but focus purely on profit aka KPI. When there’s a target, there will be pressure for time, cost versus efficiency, resulting in many half past six job and low staff morale. In fact, there are some developed countries that provides free public transport.”

John Loh wrote, “If really need high pay for them to avoid corruption, that means they will be corrupted when given low pay. That is not a genuine minister, a corrupted one.”

Edmund Khor wrote, “Want commuters to pay more? Show us the improvements first. Why a failed company like SMRT can continue to collect hundreds of millions in profit, just because it is Temasek owned? Such an ineffective company would have collapsed and replaced by a better operator in other countries.”

Tay Josephine wrote, “Public transport fares cheap? When you don’t have your Ezlink card with you and need to pay in cash, $0.77 fare becomes $1.40! 82% more! You called that cheap?”

Hap Gu wrote, “Sigh. The government seem to have skimmed over the unpalatable facts that could be related to the increase in expenditures.
1. SMRT skimmed on maintenance over the years (and reward stakeholders and shareholders) and now government spent billions of tax payer money (instead of SMRT!) on maintenance and repairing.
2. The lack of foresight when government fail to plan for the infrastructure during the migrants influxes.
3. And if the population white paper is what it is, it would have meant it’s have been accounted for. We shouldn’t need to think how to foot these bills.
As a layman, I try to understand and correlate what’s going on. But can’t help thinking, it seem like we are footing the bill for their mistakes.”

Alex Tan wrote, “The government controls the pricing of two critical services so when the rest of the world says we have the highest cost of living, the government can say “No! The matrix they use for comparison is not applicable to us!” Those two are hawker centers and public transport. Drink stalls in hawker centers are already increasing their prices by 10 cents due to the water hike. If the electricity and gas increase are felt by the rest, three dollars for a meal might be as rare as a true blue Singaporean.
And now public transportation is going to increase.”

Michelle Wee wrote, “What an oxymoron statement. The trains breakdown constantly, buses over-packed and not enough. But let’s hike up the fares because we should pay more for crappy services?!?!?! And after all, we must pay for the over inflated salary of the senior management.”

Mark Roche wrote, “Unnecessary use of air-conditioning at the bus terminals. Obscene bonuses for pathetic service delivery. Expensive estate bus shuttle services. Unfair primary and secondary and elderlyfares. A public transport is meant to be just that. An important means of transportation for citizens of that country. It’s not meant to be used to generate extra profits for the company above its operations cost and future expenses. Our bus services was excellent and efficient for us in the 70 to the 90’s. We didn’t need aircon, doors or even bus stops. Today the bus stops are poorly designed, dangerous and waste of space used by electronic signage and billboards.
Bring back transportation like CSS and OMO private bus services.”

James Ong wrote, ‘It’s not increasing the fare. It is to manage the transport system to be more cost effective. There are buses running empty from one terminal to another, and these are the non-profit losses to them. The many MRT Lines is likely to cannibalise the public transport market. Can the Minister for transport work out a better system with higher productivity than just to increase the fare? With the increase in GST and the Public Transport cost, the gap between the well to do, high salary people and the poor, retirees and jobless people will definitely widen to an open yawn.”

Philip Tam wrote, “The problem our policy unlike Hong Kong which had mini bus to supplement the main services. Many of time during off peak hour, I saw big empty buses plying the schedule route. It is a waste resources like fuel. If existing companies can switch around with different capacity type of buses and van, surely it can reduce the operating cost drastically. Otherwise get another private run minivan companies to complement the existing buses. You can’t monopolize everything and increase fares when it don’t go your way.”

David Tan wrote, “Perhaps Singaporeans need to help in terms of fare increases but show us what is it that we are paying for. Constant breakdowns for trains, jams on the roads for buses till we can no longer believe in a smooth commute. Even our devices that tracks the buses are not reliable, just check out those at the interchanges and bus stops, they can deviate by more than 10 minutes! Only when these are fixed can you justify the need to increase the fares, else we are just dumping money into the drains.”

DS Sim wrote, “Voices of dissatisfaction is deafening and I guess it makes the govt deaf not to hear anything. What we commuters want is the reasonableness on raising transport costs. If government want to increase fares show us proof of improvement and not showing us some survey of satisfaction which we don’t even know who took the survey. Judging from the comments every time the Minister speaks, I guess all the people who commented belong to the 6% who is not satisfied with our transport system. I wonder who are the 94% of the rest.”

Andy Yeo wrote, “Mr. Khaw it is time you should step down from your post immediately. To answer in such a manner to all Singaporeans, you just show your incapability and stupidity again! The longer you stay on as a minister, the longer Singaporeans suffer!”

Esther Lee wrote, “That’s true KBW, I fully agree with you if you have ever made our transport fares cheap. Cheap? you mean 10 cents and 20 cents? That’s cheap but no! Our transport fares aren’t cheap. Those who say it’s cheap are likely those high-income group people where $1 is not even 0.001% of their monthly income. Don’t make more people disappointed, sad, lost hope with the current government.”