SG govt ok with giving free bus rides to Tianjin Eco-city residents but increases fares for S’poreans

In 2007, Singapore decided to invest in a second government-to-government project in China to develop an eco-city in Tianjin. This followed the first earlier project developed in Suzhou during the 90s. Essentially, Singapore came up with the money while China provided land near the Tianjin city to develop a new urban city.

To facilitate the development, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co Ltd (SSTEC) was created to develop the new Tianjin Eco-City (TEC). It is a 50-50 joint venture between a Chinese Consortium led by Tianjin city government and Singapore government through Keppel Group. Its role includes the development of infrastructure, residential, industrial and commercial properties.

Surbana Jurong Group, a joint venture between Temasek and JTC, was also involved in the project. On its website, it described how it helped turn a desolate wasteland into an eco-city.

“Ten years ago, the 30-sq-km-wide brownfield in Tianjin, a major Chinese port city southeast of Beijing, was made up of salt farms, non-arable land and a sewage pond; nothing was likely to grow there,” it recalled.

“The air was rank with pollution too, another tell-tale sign of what lay ahead for the Surbana Jurong team that was charged with the task of returning life to the area. But what blew in along with the light spring breezes was a sense of opportunity – to turn things around and create an environment so green and inviting, the place could one day be called an eco-city.”

Surbana Jurong went on to describe how happy the residents are living in the eco-city. It said, “Residents are happy with the communal atmosphere, fostered by common causes such as recycling programmes and shared spaces and facilities, including community centres, parks, sports facilities, medical facilities and municipal services.”

In particular, it mentioned that bus services are free throughout the eco-city. “Free zero-emission bus services throughout TEC helped to cut down the car population,” it said.

Freebies for eco-city residents

On the TEC’s website, it also talked about the many freebies enjoyed by the residents, “Do you know the (Community) Center also offers free recreational facilities?”

“Residents of different ages and with different interests can have fun with their friends and families at the Center with facilities such as a reading room, an indoor children’s playground, an art room, a billiards and table tennis room, a gym and a relaxation corner for the elderly,” it said.

“Free shuttle buses are also available from different locations to get there within the Eco-City.”

In Singapore, gyms in the community centres are not free. For example, the first gym which is only expected to open in Ang Mo Kio Community Centre this year, would charge an entry fee of $2.50. Even elderly above 55 need to pay at $1.50.

Following is a picture taken by Xinhua on 19 Dec 2018, showing the residents of Tianjin eco-city “get on a free-of-charge pure electric bus”:

Back in Singapore, PAP MP Cheng Li Hui puts pressure on PTC to increase fares

During the Parliamentary debates in 2018, new PAP MP Cheng Li Hui stood up to give her two cents when Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that Singapore’s transport fares are currently “affordable” but the Government also needs to ensure the sustainability of the transport network.

She criticised the Public Transport Council 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.”

She said, “Given that operating costs have increased drastically, it is surprising to see the Public Transport Council has granted three consecutive fare decreases.” and asked for the explanation of why fare decreases were granted despite significant increase in operating cost for the last three years.

Minister Khaw was delighted with Ms Cheng’s speech. He agreed with her wholeheartedly that fare adjustments had lagged rise in operating cost.

“I agree with Ms Cheng Li Hui that the current formula is inadequate,” he said. “It can be improved to better track total costs.”

Singaporeans continue to pay the ever-increasing transport fares

Following the conclusion of its annual transport fare review exercise last year, the Public Transport Council (PTC) decided that a “maximum allowable adjustment quantum of 4.3 per cent will be implemented for bus and train fares” starting in last Dec.

This translates to an increase of six cents per journey for adult fares. Single trip tickets for trains and adult cash fares for buses were also raised by 10 cents respectively.

It looks like the Singapore government takes better care of Tianjin Eco-city residents much better than Singaporeans in Singapore. What do you think?