Govt can't keep subsidising public transport operations

Mr Adam Reutens-Tan said seeking higher profits should not be the focus of public transport service providers (Train operators, as public service providers, should not be focusing on profits, July 12).

While I agree with the view that public transport services are for the greater good of society, it may not be right to say that they should not be looking at operating profitably.

We have seen around the world how unchecked subsidies and loss-making public enterprises put a strain on government coffers, which otherwise could have been well spent on better things, again to help the society.

How big a profit margin to be maintained is a debatable question. The expected profit could come from raised fares or by reducing operating expenses.

Or by looking at maximising revenue from real estate and other shared resources owned by these transport service providers. Striking a balance is indeed a challenge.

Transport infrastructure ages quickly as the population grows and more people use the services.

To keep services up and running while adhering to safety standards, the operators need to invest in state-of-the-art tools and techniques constantly.

They also need to find the right people and keep them upskilled and trained.

Public services need to be supported by a sustainable cost management system, and the state should start cutting back on subsidies to transport operations at some point in time.

If not, meeting the ever-growing demands for newer generations will take a toll.

Ramamurthy Mahesh Kumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2019, with the headline 'Govt can't keep subsidising public transport operations'. Print Edition | Subscribe