Simon Lim: Standards must all be satisfied before public consultation of transport fares increase begin

by Simon Lim

I agree with all the arguments put forth by the Ministry of Transport that our public transport providers, SBS Transit and SMRT cannot afford to lose money for obvious reasons. No government running Singapore can allow that to happen, however, there is more than meets the eyes.

In this post, I do not wish to be distracted and gets carried away by the quantum of those big number losses suffered by both SBS Transit and SMRT running their train lines and bus operations etc. Those are merely symptoms of deeper problems and not the root-causes and it is important that we do not be confused by them. If this useless pap government is unable or unwillingly to identify correctly, act decisively and resolutely to address the root causes, everything else that they do will be mere motion and not action.

When incompetent or beholden people are put in charge, losses are faster to detect but deterioration and decay of assets and infrastructure will take a longer time to surface. Our own experiences and history hold plenty of valuable lessons for us only if those useless book-smart pap ministers are more willing to look back harder, be more nakedly honest with themselves and be more serious in their work etc. Let me explain.

Between 2000 and 2015, in every one of those financial years(FYs), SMRT made operating profits of between S$84.2million to S$197.2million and between FYs 2001 to 2015, SMRT paid a dividend sum of S$1.6billion to Temasek Holdings.

In a COI hearing in 2012, the Singapore Attorney General Chamber’s data showed that in the face of aging assets, rising ridership and increased in train disruptions, SMRT maintenance budget didn’t change much. Obviously, Saw Phaik Hwa was more concerned about pleasing her Temasek bosses than about the safety of the passengers and the reliability of those trains under her charge!

Now, looking back, one must ask if there are valuable lessons that have learned or learned enough? Are there more Saw Phiak Hwas around? Who are the new Saw Phiak Hwas? I ask myself if I were running SMRT and I have to report back to my political masters, would I try my best to please my political masters just like Saw PH tried to please her bosses at Temasek Holdings? Trust me when I say that I have no difficulty answering my own question.

Next, I have posted about it in the past but why is it until today, I am still seeing easily more than 70% of our SBS Transit buses, SMRT buses and trains etc still non-advertising generating? Could it be that advertising revenues are simply too chicken feed for them?

Bus bunching is such a waste of resources and people’s time. It may not be an everyday occurrence but it is definitely not uncommon when buses of the same service routes, eg SBS bus service 139, arrive at a bus stop, 2 or even 3 buses at the same time. I have observed that 3 buses of the same service route arrived no more than 30 seconds apart from each other.

In conclusion, I am not against public transport fare increase but before any application for such fare increases could be entertained, it must not merely satisfy whatever current fare formulas only but much, much more. They include the psyche level of all relevant senior people, the conscience and moral levels must all be satisfied before public transport fares increase consultations could even begin. Think.

This was first published on Simon Lim’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.