Forum: Profitability of Downtown Line, bus service tweaks are separate issues

The entrance to Bukit Panjang bus interchange on July 26, 2020.
The entrance to Bukit Panjang bus interchange on July 26, 2020.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

We refer to the report (Bukit Panjang to city stretch of DTL incurs $60m subsidy a year, Aug 9).

Whenever a new rail line opens, the ridership for parallel bus services will fall. As a matter of discipline, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) should adjust them so that limited resources can be used to benefit as many commuters as possible.

The current adjustments were planned for when the MRT Downtown Line opened in Bukit Panjang in end-2015, and have been a matter for discussion with grassroots advisers of affected constituencies. The commercial performance of the line is a separate matter altogether.

From the Government's perspective, fundamentally, revenues from fares, advertising and retail activities of an MRT line can never fully recover the cost of building, equipping and operating the line.

MRT is a merit good, meaning, it will always require large government subsidies funded by taxpayers' money, and hence the need to exercise fiscal discipline even as we improve services.

LTA recognises the concerns of Bukit Panjang residents, and is discussing various mitigation measures with the advisers.

Yeo Teck Guan

Senior Group Director, Public Transport

Land Transport Authority

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2020, with the headline 'Profitability of Downtown Line, bus service tweaks are separate issues'. Subscribe