The Straits Times
Published on Dec 20, 2012

Which comes first, better service or higher fares?


SHOULD transport operators increase fares ahead of service improvements, or review the fares only after improvements in productivity and efficiency in their operations are shown? I say it should be the latter ("Higher bus costs to be shared: Lui"; last Friday).

Like wages, transport fares should increase only with a rise in productivity; in this case, higher frequency, quality and reliability of service. Bus drivers can also provide better service, such as maintaining a higher level of cleanliness in their buses.

Improving the quality of the service will make commuters more willing to accept higher fares.

At the same time, transport operators should find ways to reduce their operating costs by focusing on other areas to offset the wage hike of the bus drivers. For instance, costs can be reduced by investing in energy-saving equipment and machines to save electricity and fuel costs.

With the rising cost of private cars and higher tourist numbers, increasing revenue by promoting public transport ridership is also an option. Transport operators could leverage on their larger capacity - with the purchase of 800 new buses and the extended MRT network - to do this.

SMRT and SBS Transit should deal with the higher labour costs for the time being, and display better service to commuters before increasing fares.

Jonathan Leaw