Free public transport for elderly, disabled would lead to 30-40c hike in adult fares: Iswaran

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Singapore's Parliament House. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Singapore's Parliament House. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A Workers' Party (WP) proposal to make public transport free for the elderly and the disabled would see adult fares increase by around a quarter, or 30-40 cents on average, said Transport Minister S Iswaran on Wednesday (9 March).

Iswaran told Parliament that this calculation was based on a proposal by Sengkang Member of Parliament Jamus Lim. Dr Lim had said his proposal is estimated to cost $300 million-$400 million annually, which would be paid for by commuters or taxpayers, Iswaran said.

For taxpayers, this would mean a 15 to 20 per cent increase to the $2 billion in subsidies already borne by them. "If borne by commuters, adult fares will have to be increased by around 20-25 per cent today, or 30-40 cents on average – this is up to 11 times the fare increase last year," said Iswaran.

The financial burden would only grow further by 2030, when the number of persons with disabilities (PWD) and seniors aged 60 and above is expected to increase by about a third to around 1.2 million.

Existing subsidies for elderly, disabled

Iswaran pointed out that overall, the government already spends more than $2 billion annually in subsidies for public transport commuters – about $1 billion for bus operations and $1 billion for train operations. "On average, we subsidise more than $1 for every journey taken on public transport."

As of January 2022, there are around 975,000 seniors and PWDs who hold concession cards. Depending on the trip, they receive a discount of up to 55 per cent compared with what an adult commuter would pay.

Furthermore, in the last two fare review exercises, authorities set aside about $20 million a year in vouchers to help defray the impact of fare increases. Seniors and PWDs from lower income households can benefit from this additional support.

Iswaran added that the Public Transport Council (PTC) is cognisant of the need to ensure that fares remain affordable for vulnerable commuter groups.

"When fares are increased, PTC has apportioned less of the increase to concessionary commuter groups, and more to other adult commuters. But everyone pays a share, and those who can pay more, do so."

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