Public transport fares may be standardised

Standardised fare may be recommended by the Public Transport Council for all MRT and bus routes in Singapore.
Standardised fare may be recommended by the Public Transport Council for all MRT and bus routes in Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Public Transport Council (PTC) may recommend standardising fares for all MRT lines and bus routes here.

In a blog post on Monday (Oct 10) PTC chairman Richard Magnus said that "it is clear that commuters prefer a simple fare structure".

"All public transport fares should be calculated simply, using distance travelled, regardless of the chosen mode and route, air-con or fan ventilation."

Currently, there is differentiated pricing for MRT and buses, depending on the route.

Mr Magnus noted that fare structures would become more complex with the expansion of the rail network and the injection of 1,000 addition buses into the public transport network by 2017.

He gave the example of fares on the North East Line, Circle Line and Downtown Line, all entirely underground, which are slightly higher than journeys of similar distance on above-ground lines or bus routes.

This is because they are more expensive to operate and maintain, said Mr Magnus, citing air conditioning at underground platforms as an additional expense.

But in view of the "significant" 5.7 per cent quantum - the maximum percentage that fares can go down by, which the PTC decides upon based on factors such as energy prices - this year, it is perhaps time for change, he signalled.

"With the significant -5.7 per cent quantum we are seeing this year, it certainly seems like an opportune juncture for PTC members to make a recommendation to standardise fares for all rail lines and bus routes," he said.

Mr Magnus added that while the large negative quantum of 5.7 per cent may have commuters hoping for a corresponding drop in fares,trade-offs may be necessary to balance the various interests of commuters, the need for operators to sustain a viable public transport system, and the "financial burden" of Government expenditure on public transport infrastructure and assets.

He noted that $4 billion would be spent to subsidise bus services over next five years under the bus contracting model.

Other considerations include the reliability of the expanding rail line and the manpower crunch in the sector.

"Realistically, it is not sustainable to keep imposing higher standards on our operators while fares remain unchanged, or to keep increasing the level of subsidies from the Government. The experts' view is to avoid large fluctuations in fares which may create adverse impact to industry stakeholders; and to have small and gradual fare adjustments instead," he said.

"A fine balance is therefore necessary to ensure that our public transport system remains viable and sustainable in the long run."