Parliament: Government spends $4b a year on transport infrastructure and subsidies

SINGAPORE - The government is committed to ensuring that public transport costs here stay affordable to the commuter, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo said on Monday.

To achieve this, it has been subsidising public transport by funding the infrastructure and start-up costs of the rail and bus networks, such as rail tracks, signalling and power systems and buying buses under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme.

"In addition, the Government has started providing direct fare subsidies to lower-wage workers and persons with disabilities since last year," she said, in response to a question on public transport subsidies from Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

"In total, about $14 billion has been deployed to the public transport system over the past five years. Another $26 billion has been committed for the next five."

This works out to about $4 billion a year over 10 years.

While fares should be kept affordable, the government also needs to ensure that the burden on taxpayers does not become excessive, said Ms Teo.

"Thus, we will still need to review fares regularly and keep to a public transport system that we can sustain financially," she said.

In a separate response to Mr Gan, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said that both SBS Transit and SMRT have seen higher operating expenses last year.

Operating costs increased by 11.8 per cent, or $98.6 million, for SBS Transit compared to the year before; while SMRT's operating costs from April last year to December last year increased by 3.3 per cent, or $27.6 million, compared to the same period a year before.

"Generally speaking, while public transport operators are seeing lower energy costs today, other operating costs such as salaries for bus drivers and other public transport workers may continue to rise," he said.

Operating and maintenance costs are also expected to rise when the Land Transport Authority tightens operating standards from next year, he added.