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Press conference by PTC on fare formula review (Photo by Straits Times)

PTC Chairman: Commuters spoken to were “quite happy to bear higher fares”

During Parliamentary debates in early March (7 Mar), Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that the fare formula for public transport is being reviewed in view of the upcoming infrastructure upgrades.

He noted that the current formula is "inadequate" and the Public Transport Council (PTC) is reviewing it to take into account of "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."

This is despite that $5 billion of the current huge budget surplus would be set aside for a Rail Infrastructure Fund "which will benefit all MRT commuters".

New PAP MP Cheng Li Hui also took the opportunity to criticise PTC for lowering the transport fares in recent years.

She said, "The additional operating cost was clearly not captured in our current fare formula setup as a result, operating cost has increased drastically while fares have lagged behind a for the last few years. This needs to be urgently addressed for a more sustainable public transport system and to prevent increasing burden on taxpayers."

"Given that operating costs have increased drastically, it is surprising to see the Public Transport Council has granted three consecutive fare decreases," she added.

Minister Khaw agreed with her wholeheartedly in Parliament. "I agree with Ms Cheng Li Hui that the current formula is inadequate," he said. "It can be improved to better track total costs."

PTC responds

Following the Parliamentary debates, PTC on Thursday (22 Mar) now said that it will be revising its fare formula to “keep pace with changes in the public transport industry’s cost structure”.

PTC chairman Richard Magnus said, "This is critical in ensuring the long-term financial sustainability, ease and seamlessness of our public transport network."

He said that the annual transport operating costs had increased by $900 million between 2012 and 2016 while the annual fare revenue rose by around $230 million, which covered only about 25 per cent of the annual operating costs.

Asked if public transport fares would increase, Magnus said, "I’ll tell you that I don’t know".

But he said PTC had found that there was an "expectation on the ground" that transport fares will be increased. He added that commuters spoken to were "quite happy to bear higher fares" as they recognise the cost of improving the transport network, reported Yahoo News.

It's not known how many commuters the PTC had spoken to.

The PTC, an independent body that regulates public transport fares, conducts regular reviews of its fare formula – typically done once every five years. The formula then becomes the basis for deliberation for the PTC’s annual fare review exercise.

In Feb this year, PTC reported that 94.5 percent of Singapore commuters are satisfied with public transport as found in its annual Public Transport Customer Satisfaction Survey (PTCSS) in October 2017, conducted across 22 train stations and 25 bus stations/bus stops.