Monthly adult travel pass being considered

It will help middle-income with public transport expenses, says review panel

THE high-level committee that is reviewing public transport fares is considering introducing a monthly adult travel pass.

Such a pass will help to cap monthly public transport expenses for average-income individuals or households, said Mr Richard Magnus, chairman of the Fare Review Mechanism Committee.

In a blog post yesterday, he also said that something ought to be done for children not yet in primary school who are taller than 0.9m - the limit currently set for free bus and train travel.

Polytechnic students and the disabled are also being considered for improved concessions, as are low-income earners.

The former senior district judge said the latter sometimes forgo better job opportunities further from home to reduce their public transport expenditure.

His comments came more than two weeks after Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew asked the committee to look into fare concessions and affordability.

Mr Magnus did not elaborate in his post on what he considered to be average-income households, but The Straits Times understands he was referring to those earning about $4,000 a month.

He added that the statistics may not show them as needing help because they spend only 3 per cent to 4 per cent of their incomes on public transport on average, and should therefore find it "quite affordable".

"However the reality is that this is not a homogenous group as there are some heavy public transport users who spend some $120 or even higher each month on public transport fares," he said.

The 13-man committee was tasked last June with re-examining how bus and train fares are set. It will present its recommendations to the Government at the end of May.

Mr Magnus said his committee will carry out a thorough review of concession policies, and added: "These new, enhanced concession schemes will address the issue of affordability for specific commuter groups in a more effective and systematic manner."

He said the committee is "also mindful of the need to find ways to keep our public transport system financially viable".

Currently, households that earn about $1,700 or less a month can apply for transport vouchers, on top of other aid from community development councils.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chairman Cedric Foo said tweaking fare concessions to include groups like the average-income households is a step in the right direction. But he stressed: "There will still be those who do not take the public transport as often and still find fares too expensive."

Marketing communications executive Aida Fadzil, 27, is one of the average-income workers who could benefit from the new concessions. She is hoping for a discount on her daily 40-minute train ride from her Woodlands home to her Bukit Merah workplace.

She spends over $150 monthly on public transport. "For the kind of service I am getting now, it is expensive. There are no seats, and it can get so uncomfortable and unbearable. And we are not even talking about the breakdowns."