1 per cent transport fare hike sparks online debate

Faris Mokhtar
SingaporeScene

UPDATE

Singaporeans have questioned the 1 per cent public transport fare hike approved earlier on Friday morning by the Public Transport Council.

While the overall 1 per cent fare increase is significantly lower than the 2.8 per cent cap  allowed under the fare adjustment formula, many still wondered if it was justified.

Within an hour of the announcement, over a hundred people left comments on Yahoo Singapore's Facebook page.

Andrew Tan wrote, "We need to see result before price hike can be approved! Can we guarantee an improvement in service quality after 8 Oct? After all, good service quality should be there even before any price hike and not a tool use for price hike!"

Another Joseph Then added, "History repeats itself. Price hikes always happens within 6 months after elections".

Some also wondered if taxi fares were next to go under review.

On Friday morning, the PTC announced that from Oct 8, adult card fares for buses and trains will increase by 2 cents per journey.

Senior citizen concessionary fares will increase by 1 cent per journey. There will be no change to child and student concessionary card fares.

On average, the PTC said the fare hike works out to about a rise of 15 cents per week for 85 per cent of commuters.

PTC chairman Gerard Ee said the decision not to award the full cap was made after taking into account the concerns of commuters which include inflation.

He said the fare hike which takes effect on Oct 8 also coincides with the opening of the full Circle Line, which means commuters will only see one round of fare increases.

Bus fares are set to increase in October. (Yahoo! file photo)

On 11 July, public transport operators SMRT and SBS Transit submitted their applications to the Public Transport Council (PTC) to increase the total bus and rail fares collected by up to 2.8 per cent.

The increase is calculated using the annual fare adjustment formula recommended by the Government-appointed Fare Review Mechanism Committee.

This formula takes into account the consumer price index, wage index and productivity gains.

Operators had reasoned that their applications were due to the increasing operations costs, in spite of efforts to manage costs and increase productivity.

Other than cost pressures from fuel and energy prices, SBS Transit said it is spending S$268 million to purchase 600 new buses, scheduled for delivery in 2011 and 2012.

The operator has purchased a total of 2,050 new buses since 2006 as part of its fleet renewal exercise. The buses cost about S$854 million, said SBS Transit.

For the financial year 2011, SMRT's energy costs increased 17.5 per cent to S$122.4 million due mainly to higher electricity and diesel prices, as well as the expansion of the rail network with the opening of Circle Line Phase 1 and 2, said the operator.

Its manpower costs have also increased because of a 0.5 percentage point increase in employer CPF contribution rate to 15 per cent in September 2010 and to 15.5 per cent in March 2011.

SMRT also hired more staff because of the Circle Line opening and to operate additional train and bus trips. The operator introduced 420 extra train trips from March and increased the number of bus trips by 5.4 per cent.

Last year, SBS Transit posted a net of profit of S$54.3 million while SMRT had net earnings of $161.1 million for the financial year that ended this March.