Early morning rail fares to be lowered, free pre-peak travel to cease: Public Transport Council

Nicholas Yong
Senior Correspondent
(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

From end-December, early morning commuters can look forward to cheaper train fares if they tap in before 7.45am on weekdays, excluding public holidays.

Fares will be lowered by up to 50 cents for pre-peak travellers, said the Public Transport Council (PTC) in announcing the results of its 2017 Fare Review Exercise at a press conference on Monday (30 October).

However, the Free Pre-Peak Travel (FPPT) scheme, which currently offers free MRT rides for those exiting 18 city area stations before 7.45am on weekdays, will be scrapped. Also set to go will be the Off-Peak Pass (OPP) scheme, which offers unlimited travel outside of the weekday peak periods on the bus and train networks.

These recommendations were made by the PTC as part of its efforts to encourage both off-peak travel and the efficient use of public transport resources, and were partly based on findings from a parallel study conducted on the FPPT and OPP schemes. This will be the third year in a row that the PTC has recommended reducing public transport fares.

Since its introduction in 2013, the FPPT scheme was found to have shifted 7 per cent of rail trips outside of the morning peak hours while the OPP trial, begun in 2015, succeeded in converting only about 200 rail users to off-peak travel.

“About 300,000 rail commuters already travel before the morning peak and stand to benefit from lower fares. We hope that the lower morning pre-peak fares will encourage more rail commuters to make the shift to morning pre-peak travel,” said PTC chairman Richard Magnus.

In announcing its approval of the PTC’s suggestions, the Ministry of Transport said it would extend the same discounted fares to lower-wage workers and persons with disabilities who use their respective concession cards.

PTC chairman Richard Magnus (centre), chief executive Tan Kim Hong (right) and council member Vincent Chua at Monday’s (30 October) press conference. (PHOTO: Nicholas Yong / Yahoo News Singapore)

How it works

The lowered fares for pre-peak rail travel will kick in from 29 December, the same day on which the FPPT and OPP trial schemes are due to cease.

Commuters tapping into the rail network before 7.45am will either receive a discount amounting to the fare for the rail leg of their trip or up to 50 cents, whichever is lower.

For example, a commuter who takes the bus from Toa Payoh Lorong 7 to Toa Payoh MRT station – a 77-cent fare – and then takes the train to Newton MRT – a 20-cent fare – would normally incur a total fare of 97 cents. Under the new fare scheme, if said commuter taps in at Toa Payoh MRT before 7.45am, he will enjoy a free ride to Newton MRT.

An example of how the new early morning fare scheme will work.

The numbers

Asked whether the PTC’s fare suggestions received any pushback from rail operators who are facing “higher cost pressures”, Magnus said, “Of course, operators naturally would not want to have fares reduced… So we had long interactions with them (and) they were very concerned about the costs that they were facing. They’re very responsible operators.”

When asked if the rail operators had asked to increase fares, Magnus said, “I think their bottomline request to us is that there be no fare reduction.”

In making its recommendations, the PTC took into consideration a fare adjustment quantum of -5.4 per cent, of which -1.5 per cent was a roll-over from the 2016 Fare Review Exercise.

The lowered rail fares to come will amount to a fare adjustment quantum of -2.2 per cent, with the remaining -3.2 per cent to be carried forward to next year’s review. Other public transport fares will also be maintained.

This fare reduction translates to a $40.1 million annual decrease in fare revenue for the nation’s public transport operators. The reduction in annual revenue for bus, SBS Transit Rail and SMRT rail is $20.2 million, $4.8 million and $15.1 million respectively, said the PTC.

Going forward, the government will also be investing $20 billion into new public transport infrastructure over the next five years, along with spending $4 billion to upgrade and expand rail operations. Another $4 billion will also be spent on bus contracting subsidies over the same period, said the PTC.

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