SINGAPORE - The $40 off-peak monthly travel pass scheme, which was cancelled last December, had "failed miserably", said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in Parliament on Monday (Feb 5).
The scheme, which allowed elderly commuters with the pass to make unlimited bus and train rides during off-peak hours on weekdays, was a two-year trial intended to encourage users to shift their travel to off-peak periods.
But fewer than 200 commuters made the switch, said Mr Khaw, and the scheme was discontinued by the Public Transport Council (PTC) this year.
About half of the 13,000 off-peak passes that were sold on average each month since the trial began were for senior citizens, said the PTC previously.
"When the scheme was formulated, I suppose we were optimistic that there will be many who will benefit and make the switch. Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be so," said Mr Khaw.
Elderly commuters can now buy the $60 Senior Citizen Monthly Concession Pass, which includes peak-period coverage.
This group, as well as those with disabilities, get a 25 per cent discount off adult card fares at all times. If they tap in before 7.45am, they can receive a further discount of up to 50 cents for rail travel, said Mr Khaw.
Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked if there was a study to look at the 200 commuters using the off-peak scheme who would be affected by its cancellation. "The fact that there was quite a lot of discussion on the ground on this means that it affects these 200 users," said Ms Lee.
In response, Mr Khaw said schemes must be designed to "benefit as wide a number of people as possible".
"After all, you are spending taxpayers' money," he argued.
Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh asked if the authorities could have given seniors a choice between the new concession pass and the earlier off-peak pass as an experiment, but Mr Khaw believes there is little reason to do so.
He said: "Now that we've tried this experiment and we found that the off-peak pass has failed miserably, why do we want to (give them a choice)?
"So yes, while I encourage making mistakes, trying out new things, but when you discover something doesn't work and you keep on banging your head against the wall, why do you do that? You get a headache."