Public Transport Council defends decision to axe $40 travel pass for seniors

The Public Transport Council has explained its decision to scrap the $40 monthly unlimited travel pass for seniors.
The Public Transport Council has explained its decision to scrap the $40 monthly unlimited travel pass for seniors.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Public Transport Council (PTC) has explained its decision to scrap the $40 monthly unlimited travel pass for people above the age of 60.

A two-year trial, which ended last month, allowed elderly commuters who carried the pass to make unlimited bus and train rides during off-peak hours on weekdays, as well as all day on weekends and public holidays.

Elderly commuters can now buy the Senior Citizen Monthly Concession Pass, which includes peak-period coverage - but costs $60.

Several readers wrote in to The Straits Times after the $40 pass was axed on Dec 29.

In a letter published on Jan 11, elderly commuter Jeff Tan wrote: "As most seniors have retired and are unemployed, saving a little on transport fare goes a long way and helps to stretch our dollar."

Mr Chee Chi Weng wrote: "We should use cheaper travel options to keep seniors active."

However the PTC backed its move this week, telling The Straits Times that the pass was part of a two-year trial introduced in July 2015 to encourage off-peak travel.

It announced last October that the pass would end in December, and displayed 300,000 posters and brochures to inform the public of the changes.

Out of 13,000 off-peak passes that were sold on average each month since the trial began, about half were senior citizen passes, it added.

The council also said that since the trial was implemented, fewer than 200 rail commuters shifted to travel at off-peak hours.

A PTC spokesman said: "Senior citizens with concession cards can continue to enjoy a discount of around 25 per cent off adult card fares, depending on the travel distance. Those travelling pre-peak will also enjoy a 25 per cent discount off the lower pre-peak fares."

The Senior Citizen Monthly Concession Pass is half the price of its adult equivalent, the spokesman added.

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport researcher Walter Theseira called for a different approach to helping elderly commuters with transport costs.

"While I am sympathetic to the fact that the elderly who buy the $60 concession pass have to spend $20 more a month... it would be better to target that $20 in subsidies at those who need it, such as the lower-income group," he said.

He added that there is less need for the off-peak pass now, given that the regular fare structure is now being differentiated for peak and off-peak travel.

"Fare differentiation should help push people towards off-peak travel if possible, which will help reduce costs for everyone," he added.

But retired engineering officer David Kwok, 67, said: "I have no choice but to buy the $60 pass. Now we have no more incentive to travel during off-peak hours."