SBS Transit posts 1.5% profit rise for 2019 but warns of rising maintenance, staff costs

The ongoing refurbishing of the trains of the North-East MRT Line and Sengkang-Punggol LRT will push up repair and maintenance costs, the company said when announcing its 2019 annual results.
The ongoing refurbishing of the trains of the North-East MRT Line and Sengkang-Punggol LRT will push up repair and maintenance costs, the company said when announcing its 2019 annual results.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - SBS Transit reported on Thursday (Feb 13) higher revenue and profit for 2019 but cautions that it is dogged by rising costs, especially in the operations and maintenance of its rail business.

This despite the recent 7 per cent fare hike, the public transport operator said.

It added that it needs to replace an ageing bus and train fleet, as well as attract and retain staff.

The ongoing refurbishing of the trains of the North-East MRT Line (NEL) and Sengkang-Punggol LRT will push up repair and maintenance costs, the company said when announcing its 2019 annual results.

In addition, more money will be needed to replace its fleet of ageing buses and trains, as well as invest in ongoing predictive maintenance to improve service reliability.

Similarly, it foresees staff costs going up as it strives to retain and attract staff with better pay.

On Thursday, SBS Transit reported a profit of $81.3 million for 2019, a 1.5 per cent rise over the previous year's $80.1 million.

But overall revenue rose 4.5 per cent to $1.45 billion, from $1.38 billion in 2018.

The bulk of it came from public transport services, with both higher bus service fees received from the Government and rail fare revenue adding up to $1.38 billion. This is a 4.4 per cent increase over the previous year.

The higher rail fare revenue was largely due to a rise in ridership and the Dec 28 fare hike, said SBS Transit, which gets almost all its revenue from its public transport services. Other commercial services contribute just 5 per cent.

Ridership last year grew in all its rail lines, including the SPLRT.

 
 

Average daily ridership for the Downtown Line (DTL) went up by 6 per cent to 477,000 passenger trips compared with the previous year while for the NEL, the corresponding figures are 1.6 per cent and 601,000 and the SPLRT, they are 6.7 per cent and 140,000.

The company is giving a final dividend of 5.90 cents for each ordinary share, down from 7.10 cents in 2018.

Meanwhile, SBS Transit said it is "currently unclear" how the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, or Covid-19, will turn out, adding that a "prolonged outbreak" is expected.

"Covid-19 and measures to fight it will result in economic slowdown and lower ridership," it said.

The operator, which has an average daily ridership of 3.61 million on its bus and rail networks, is increasing the cleaning and disinfecting frequency of its buses, trains and facilities.