Cheaper MRT rides for pre-peak weekday travel

The new off-peak discount will apply to all stations and when a commuter taps in before 7.45am.
The new off-peak discount will apply to all stations and when a commuter taps in before 7.45am. PHOTO: ST FILE

Discount of up to 50 cents will apply from Dec 29 at all stations; two existing trials to end

From Dec 29, commuters who start their journeys at any of the 157 MRT and LRT stations before 7.45am on weekdays will see their fares discounted by up to 50 cents.

The Public Transport Council (PTC) announced this yesterday as part of its annual transport fare review. It also said other transport fares will not be adjusted for now.

Under the new initiative, a commuter who taps into Beauty World station before 7.45am to travel to Tan Kah Kee station will see his fare reduced from 87 cents to 37 cents.

A student with concession fares, who pays 42 cents for the same journey, will pay nothing for his ride from Dec 29. The same would apply to any commuter whose ride costs less than 50 cents.

The discount is also being extended to low-wage workers and people with disabilities, who already enjoy discounts under two concession schemes.

The new initiative will mark the end of two existing trials to encourage off-peak travel.

One of these is the Free Pre-Peak Travel scheme, which allows those who reach any of 18 MRT stations in the city area before 7.45am to have free rides. It is used by 65,000 commuters and has resulted in a sustained 7 per cent drop in peak-hour rail commutes.

Another 13,000 use the Off-Peak Pass, which, at $80 a month, allows adult commuters to have unlimited bus and train rides during off-peak hours on weekdays and all day on weekends and public holidays.

Both schemes end in December.

PTC chairman Richard Magnus said the move to reduce pre-peak fares across the board will benefit around 300,000 commuters - or about 10 per cent of all rail commuters - who already travel before the morning peak.

The council hopes it will encourage an additional 300,000 to start travelling earlier, said PTC chief executive Tan Kim Hong.

Mr Magnus added: "Spreading out travel demand in this way will also make more efficient use of our public transport system, as capacity during off-peak periods will be better utilised."

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said that while any fare reduction was good, it was too early to say that it would make people change their travel patterns.

"Different commuters will have different considerations," he said, adding that he hoped peak-hour travel would be reduced.

The lower pre-peak rail fares amount to a fare reduction of 2.2 per cent. Another 3.2 per cent fare reduction will be rolled over to next year's fare review exercise.

This year's fare reduction means that fare revenues for the public transport operators could be cut by $40.1 million a year.

Mr Magnus said the council had to balance what commuters paid against factors such as costs to rail operators and the substantial investments made by the Government in public transport.

The two rail operators - SBS Transit and SMRT - had requested no reductions in fares. Still, Mr Magnus said he believed they would not let their standards slip.

Earlier this year, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said it was not sustainable for taxpayers to subsidise the increasing costs of the public transport system.

Mr Magnus said a review of the current fare formula - as well as of distance-based fare transfer rules for the MRT - would be completed early next year.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'Cheaper MRT rides for pre-peak weekday travel'. Print Edition | Subscribe