More COEs next year, free train rides not decided: Lui

Govt doing utmost to make public transport convenient: Minister

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has advised aspiring car owners to wait till next year when the supply of Certificates of Entitlement (COE) increases.

But he also stressed that the Government is doing its utmost to make public transport as convenient as possible.

During Channel NewsAsia's Ask Minister programme, which was broadcast on Tuesday, Mr Lui took questions on a broad range of transport issues, from free trains rides to making roads safer for cyclists.

In the last bidding exercise, COEs for smaller cars cost nearly $17,000 more than the premium for cars above 1,600cc. Mr Lui said it will take several bidding cycles over the next few months before COE premiums stabilise.

Still, he noted that the COE supply would go up over the next few years as more cars are deregistered, though it is unclear how prices would move.

He said: "For those who want to own a car now, I would advise that if they can defer the decision till a little bit later on, when the COE supply actually picks up in 2014, that may be a better time to revisit the situation then."

He also addressed concerns that the recent moves to cap car loans and tier the additional registration fee (ARF) have made cars available only to the rich.

He said the tiered ARF is meant to ensure those buying bigger, more expensive cars would end up paying more. He also explained that it takes a large financial commitment to buy a car. That is why the Monetary Authority of Singapore curbed loans at up to 60 per cent of a car's purchase price, ensuring people carefully consider the purchase.

On the possibility of offering free train travel before the morning peak hour, Mr Lui said he has not decided between that and providing a significantly higher fare discount. Commuters are currently given a discount of 50 cents when they exit at certain stations in the city before 7.45am. Mr Lui said city-bound commuters experience the most congestion from 8.30am to 9.30am. He hopes to encourage 10 per cent to 20 per cent of commuters to travel earlier. But he said some are concerned that offering free travel may shift too many commuters to the earlier hours and create a new peak.

Mr Lui also said he is focused on increasing the frequency and reliability of buses. When most of the 550 buses the Government is looking to add as part of a $1.1 billion plan are rolled out, the minister hopes to see buses arrive every eight to 10 minutes.

Cycling, said Mr Lui, is an opportunity, not a burden or a nuisance. But not all cyclists are proficient enough to be on the road, so it was best to provide them with their own paths, he said.

On what he wants to see over the next two years, Mr Lui said: "For all of us who use the public transport system... I hope that it will be a lot more convenient and just as affordable, if not more so than what it is today."

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