Public-private partnership may be better option

Free market forces in a globalised economy are some of the most effective arbiters of productivity, competitiveness and sustainable results.

Thus, I am not so sure that the Government will be in the best position to run the rail system effectively and efficiently ("LTA must be ready to take over MRT ops: Khaw"; Dec 5).

It would be difficult for civil servants to get the best bang for the buck in providing public and commercial services.

In addition, they may not be positioned to compete in the global market and export the MRT's expertise and other resources to overseas markets.

Should the Government run the rail system, I would also be concerned about consumers becoming overly demanding.

They may also expect the Government to provide train services on a free or subsidised basis, without raising taxes.

On the other hand, when private companies run the rail system, they may not be willing to serve the greater good of consumers.

Such organisations are usually focused on maximising their profits on a short-term basis and, therefore, may choose to compromise on service levels in exchange for higher returns.

After looking at the various options - none of which are perfect - it may be better to run the rail system as a public-private partnership.

The Government should look after the development, maintenance and improvement of the infrastructure, while private companies should compete to run the services.

A hybrid model for the rail operator will provide a more reliable system while ensuring that service and pricing are developed at competitive levels.

At the same time, private companies running the rail services can also look at the opening of new markets overseas.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'Public-private partnership may be better option'. Print Edition | Subscribe