A YEAR-LONG trial offering free travel before peak hours will not apply to students and national servicemen who buy monthly concession passes, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
Holders of such passes can make up to four train trips a day and will not be able to make an additional "free" trip beyond the four under the scheme, said an LTA spokesman.
The trial, which begins on Monday, allows commuters to travel for free if they exit from 16 stations in the city before 7.45am on weekdays, said the LTA in a statement yesterday to explain the details. Passengers who get off at those stations between 7.45am and 8am will get a 50-cent discount on their fare.
To travel, they have to use their stored-value ez-link cards.
An LTA spokesman said under the train concession scheme, card-holders would have paid $45 to $50 a month to cap their monthly travel expenditure.
She said: "There is no easy way to extend the scheme to (concession) holders and it would entail complex changes to the scheme and the fare system."
Those on concession passes would have to decide if it is more worthwhile to buy a stored-value card instead to enjoy the pre-peak free rides or discounts, she added.
The free travel trial is funded by the Government as part of its efforts to ease morning peak hour crowding on trains.
Currently, there are about 59,000 passengers exiting the 16 stations between 8.30am and 9am, 29,500 from 7.45am to 8.15am, and about 18,000 in the half hour before 7.45am.
Asked if commuters would still be eligible for free travel if a train delay caused them to leave a station after 7.45am, the LTA spokesman said eligibility will have to depend on the exit time to keep the scheme simple.
She said it would be difficult to assess a waiver under a wide variety of scenarios and advised commuters to plan their journeys and travel earlier.
She said: "In fairness to all commuters, everyone will need to abide by the cut-off time."
Those who start their journeys from any of the 16 stations will not get the free or discounted train rides.
The LTA spokesman said the trial aims to reduce the demand for morning peak hour travel along the most crowded stretches of the network, largely starting from outside the city and going towards it.
Lawyer Kenneth Chow, 42, plans to use the free rides two or three times a week.
He said: "The train won't be so crowded. I might go to the gym, since I have a gym membership."