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Budget 2013: Commuters may get free or cheaper off-peak morning rides

Published on Mar 12, 2013 6:58 PM
 
Commuters at Bishan MRT station during evening peak hour around 7pm on July 28, 2011. The government is looking into offering free, if not cheaper, rides to commuters who travel earlier to ease peak hour congestion. -- ST FILE PHOTO: NURIA LING

The Government is looking into offering free, if not cheaper, rides to commuters who travel earlier to ease peak hour congestion.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said in Parliament on Tuesday that his ministry is considering this idea "seriously" as a way to get commuters to shift their travel away from the peak period of 8.30am to 9.30am.

"What we are still studying is whether we should simply increase the current 50-cent discount substantially to say, $1, or to go all the way to make it free for commuters travelling before a certain cut-off time in the morning," he said.

Mr Lui's response comes a week after MP Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris- Punggol GRC) suggested that commuters travel free for 30 minutes to an hour up until 7.45am every weekday to change peak hour patterns. Several MPs like Mr Liang Eng Hwa(Holland- Bukit Timah GRC) and Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) have also come out to support his proposal.

During Tuesday's debate on the Transport Ministry's spending plans, Mr Lui said that giving discounts to get commuters to shift their travel patterns is part of the Government's efforts to increase the capacity, efficiency and reliability of Singapore's public transport.

"If we can get even 10 to 15 per cent of commuters in the peak period to travel say up to an hour earlier, we would achieve a very perceptible improvement in commuters' daily travel experience to get to work."

But Mr Lui cautioned that his ministry is not planing to shift every commuter out of the peak period and create "a new peak earlier in the morning".

The Government already offers incentives to peak-hour morning commuters who are willing to shift their journeys including a chance to win $200. Train operator SMRT also increased its discount for commuters who change their travel times from 30 cents to 50 cents last year. So far, the incentives have moved about 3 to 4 per cent of commuters away from the peak period.