Bus, train rides to cost a few cents more from April

2.8% overall rise in fares as part of 2014 hike is carried over to this year

Most card-paying adult commuters will pay four or five cents more for each bus and train ride from April 5.

For short trips, the hikes are just two or three cents.

Those using cash will have to fork out 10 cents more per ride.

Students will pay one cent more while senior citizens, low-wage workers and persons with disabilities will have their fares frozen.

The revision is part of an overall 2.8 per cent rise in fares that the Public Transport Council announced yesterday.

Based on 2013 data alone, the fares would have been cut 0.6 per cent. But because 3.4 per cent of a 6.6 per cent rise approved last year was carried over to this year, the adjustment this year becomes a 2.8 per cent increase.

As before, it is based on a formula that takes into account changes in inflation rate, wages and an energy index that charts oil and electricity costs. The first two components are given a 40 per cent weighting each, while energy has a 20 per cent weighting.

A productivity extraction of 0.5 per cent is then deducted from the derived figure. This is to allow commuters to share in the transport operators' productivity gain.

The revision will result in the two transport companies raking in $48.5 million more in revenue a year.

But each will have to contribute to the Public Transport Fund to help needy families cope with the fare hikes. SBS Transit will have to contribute 25 per cent or $5.5 million of its $21.9 million revenue gain. SMRT Corp will have to give 30 per cent or $8 million of its $26.6 million foreseeable gain.

Council chairman Richard Magnus said the size of the clawback hinges on the firms' profitability.

"It's a judgment call," the former senior district judge said. "The formula allows for a clawback of up to 50 per cent."

Besides the Public Transport Fund, which helps those with a household income of less than $1,500 a month, three other concessions remain in place.

Families that do not earn more than $1,900 a month, commuters with handicaps and senior citizens are among 1.1 million people who will not see a fare rise.

That aside, a government-funded Off-peak Monthly Travel Pass will also be rolled out from July 5. On trial for two years, this is another scheme to get commuters to travel outside peak periods.

Adult citizens and permanent residents can buy the monthly pass at $80, which allows them unlimited travel outside the peak hours of 6.30am to 9am and 5pm to 7.30pm on weekdays. There are no restrictions on weekends and public holidays. The pass costs $40 for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

IT manager Ang Chwee Leng, 52, said the fare rise is no big deal. "After all, most people will expect their salaries to increase, including transport workers," he added.

But he hopes the sharp drop in oil prices will be reflected in future revisions.

Mr Magnus said that, all things being equal, the oil price plunge will result in a 1 per cent decrease in fares next year.

Asked how the new bus contracting model - where the Government collects and keeps fare revenue - will affect fare adjustments, he said: "There needs to be a new way to see how fares should be framed."

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said on his Facebook page yesterday that the council had "achieved a good balance between keeping fares affordable for Singaporeans and maintaining the viability and sustainability of our public transport system".

christan@sph.com.sg