Unfair to pass cost of poor management to commuters

The Government's intention to increase transport fares, citing rising operating costs, could have been avoided with better management (Fares should not be pegged directly to cost; March 22) .

If SMRT, the rail operator of the North-South and East-West lines, had stuck to its upgrading and maintenance schedule instead of piling up all the major replacement and upgrading works to the last two to three years, the cost would have been spread out and better managed.

Former transport consultant Bruno Wildermuth, who was heavily involved in the early days of planning and running our MRT lines, said that the signalling system should have been upgraded by 2002 and is now 16 years too late (Make it easy to top up ez-link: Transport veteran; March 12).

Why this happened is well documented. SMRT, for nine years, was headed by a retail industry veteran, who was more focused on diversifying its revenue stream by building up retail space in the MRT stations than on the engineering aspects of the company.

Even after the current chief executive took over in 2012, the pace of replacements and upgrading has clearly not been up to speed, going by the incidents of MRT disruptions.

Is it fair then for the public to bear the increase in operating costs when it was poor management on the part of SMRT that created today's scenario?

As for SBS Transit, it should have factored in the increase in its costs when it prepared its bid to operate the Downtown Line, and not pass it on to commuters.

The public should not be penalised through higher fares while SBS Transit has gained in terms of more revenue as it added another MRT line to its stables.

Gabriel Cheng Kian Tiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2018, with the headline 'Unfair to pass cost of poor management to commuters'. Print Edition | Subscribe