Transport fares unlikely to be raised this year

SBS Transit buses at the Toa Payoh bus interchange. An increase in bus and train fares looks unlikely this year. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN  
SBS Transit buses at the Toa Payoh bus interchange. An increase in bus and train fares looks unlikely this year. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN  

An increase in bus and train fares looks unlikely this year.

This is because the Fare Review Mechanism Committee headed by former judge Richard Magnus has yet to finish its report; and any fare revision will have to hinge on the new formula the committee is working on.

According to industry sources, public transport operators usually apply for a fare revision in June, and the Public Transport Council (PTC), after deliberation, will announce its decision in early August.

Adjustments, if any, are effective from Oct 1.

The last fare hike was in October 2011.

Fares were frozen last year when Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew set up the fare review committee.

The previous fare formula had been in place since 2008, and was up for review.

In response to a query from The Straits Times, the PTC said: "There will not be any fare adjustment exercise until the Fare Review Mechanism Committee completes its review and proposes improvements to the current fare review framework and fare adjustment formula for the Government's consideration."

Transport operators are already bracing themselves for another fare freeze.

Neither SMRT nor SBS Transit has applied for a revision this year.

SMRT, in its first-quarter results announcement, said "the next 12 months remain challenging... in the absence of fare adjustments and continuing absorption of fare concessions".

The Straits Times understands that the Government will finance concessions in a new fare framework, which may include discounts for polytechnic students and the disabled.

A fare cap for commuters who have to make several trips a day is also likely.

Asked if a two-year fare freeze might translate to a bigger hike next year, PTC chairman Gerard Ee said: "We have to wait till the new fare formula comes out, and look at it as a package."

Earlier this year, Members of Parliament Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) called for a freeze in fares until service levels improved.

christan@sph.com.sg