Friday, September 15, 2006

PTC approves fare hikes of 1.7%

SINGAPORE: From October, adult EZ-link fares for buses and trains will increase by 1 to 3 cents, which amounts to an overall fare hike of 1.7 percent. Senior citizen off-peak EZ-link fares will correspondingly increase by 1 cent.

There are no increases in case fares for buses, single trip tickets for trains, child and student fares and monthly student and NS concession passes. In August, public transport operators SMRT Corp and SBS Transit applied to the Public Transport Council for these increases.

The Council says that given the positive economic outlook, it assessed that there were no "extenuating circumstances" to vary or reject the proposal. It has approved a "tiered increase," depending on the distance travelled so that those who make short trips or transfers will pay less. The Council added that of all the bus and train trips, six in ten will see either no increase, or an increase of 1 cent.

This also works out to be a quarter of all commuters who will not see any increase at all. The government has pledged to help needy families adjust to the increase. In a news release, the government said it has lined up the schemes that are available, including the Citizens'
Consultative Committees ComCare Fund.

This is part of the ComCare Fund launched last July to ensure that needy Singaporeans are not left behind. Since then, $1.95m have been disbursed, which helped about 12,500 cases. The two public transport operators have also contributed $1m for Public Transport Vouchers, which will also be available through the CCCs.

Each voucher is worth $20 and can be used to buy or top up EZ-link cards, or to buy monthly concession passes. The National Trade Unions Congress (NTUC) has also come up with $1.6m in "NTUC Care and Share Vouchers" to help union members from low-income families to cope with increases in utilities and transport costs.

Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan commended these organisations for stepping in to help needy families. He said through the Comcare Fund, the government will also do its part. - CNA /dt

The PTC says the fare hikes are reasonable. Is that true?? The "commendable" effort these companies have gone to (giving out vouchers and capping the increase for child and students) are all for show as they have come under immense pressure from Singaporeans for their greed and profit-driven approach.

It is getting to the point of exasperation that every year we have to discuss this topic but yet the end result is the same, ie. the request from the transport operators are approved and fares are increased (only difference is the percentage of increase).

Seriously, the PTC is nothing but a paper organization which bows to the request of transport companies and protect their interests instead of standing up for Singaporeans. Questions should be asked of the need to raise fares if profits are already secured or when the price of crude oil falls. Has the overall service and travel time improved with these constant fare hikes?

The government should also explain why the bus sectors are not open up for more competition while the taxi companies are facing stiff competition in the over-saturated market. Rather than having a useless PTC, they should introduce more players into the scene and let market economics settle the pricing. With intense competition, transport companies may think twice about raising fares.

The current system allows for the freedom of transport companies to engage in useless multi-million dollars projects with no fear of affecting ther bottomline as they can just send in their request to increase fares and then pass on the cost/losses to passengers. Why is SBS still complaining about the EZLink system after spending millions of dollars on it?

If it boils down to cheaters amongst passengers, then why discard TransitLink in the first place when the problem is still not solved? By the way, how much of the extra 1-2 cents have they pocketed when they did not update the stations properly and most people are just too lazy to ask for refunds?

It is high time the government looks into the affordability of public transport for its citizens instead of pushing the blame to us that we want a world-class transport system and hence should pay for it.

It is not that Singaporeans want to have their cake and eat it. We are willing to pay for a reasonable standard of public transport and if fare increases needs to be implemented which results in improvement of services or due to external circumstances like rising crude oil prices, then it is alright.

But if the underlying reason of fare hikes is just to ensure profits/directors' bonuses and answer to shareholders, then shouldn't commuters have a right to be angry about the situation and demand a stop to this exploitation? The government will come out with their templated responses soon to appease the people but end of the day, nothing is going to change.


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