We shouldn’t avoid fare increases completely: Lui

Singapore should not take the populist approach of avoiding public transport fare increases completely, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew on Thursday.

In a note on his Facebook page, Lui took pains to explain his comments about bus fares having to rise to pay bus drivers better and attract more locals to the job after his recent remarks sparked public criticism.

Lui said the government has already invested heavily in improving public transport services by supporting Singapore’s rail network and setting aside $1.1 billion to help get more buses serving the roads in Singapore.

“The further improvements we are thinking of, such as even more improved service levels, which will require amongst others more bus drivers and higher salaries, are costly,” he wrote. “They come on top of various costs increases to the operators, such as rising energy costs. Somebody has to pay for these costs, either commuters in fares, or taxpayers in government subsidies, or the PTOs.

“The proper balance is something we have to study very carefully,” he continued. “But we should not simply take the populist approach of avoiding any fare increases completely, and just push it onto the PTOs or rely on more and more government subsidies.”

Lui added further that this scenario would not only require more public funds, but also would give operators less incentive to be efficient and to provide good services to commuters.

“The purpose of fare increases is not to boost the short-term profits of PTOs (public transport operators),” he wrote. “It is also not just to improve salaries of bus drivers but to improve service to commuters while keeping public transport operations commercially viable.”

He explained that this is why the government will work with PTOs to ensure that part of the additional revenue earned from any fare increments will be re-invested into improvements for the public transport system, either in terms of what he calls “hardware” — more buses, trains and better signalling systems — or “software” — better employment terms and salaries for staff, including not just bus drivers and train operators, but also for maintenance and service personnel.

Lui also stressed the government’s commitment to keeping public transport affordable for low- to middle-income groups, the disabled and other vulnerable parties, adding that he hopes to see the public transport council devise ways to help these groups as part of its next recommendation for fare adjustment.

“The bottom line is this: this is not just a matter of raising fares to pay bus drivers higher salaries,” he wrote. “It is a matter of all the stakeholders — the PTOs, the government, and yes, commuters too — coming together to ensure we enjoy a reliable, high-quality and affordable public transport system.”

Earlier this week, 84 per cent of some 3,000 Yahoo! Singapore readers voted against having to pay more in fares in exchange for higher bus drivers' salaries, saying that operators should absorb these additional costs.

Related stories:
84% oppose bus fare hikes for higher driver wages: Y! poll
China bus drivers' pay is fair, SMRT CEO insists
Ever seen the inside of a foreign workers' dormitory?
'Proper channels for foreign workers aren't adequate'

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 8 minutes ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • Why you can't buy America's greenest car 3 hours ago
    Why you can't buy America's greenest car

    Ask me or any auto expert what's the fastest car you can buy for any given amount, and we could easily cough up several options. Same for most luxurious, or off-roadable, or any other measurement. Yet there's one type of question that's far harder to answer: What's the greenest, most environmentally friendly car you can buy today?

  • Audi TT Offroad concept debuts as a 124-mpg hybrid with wireless charging 4 hours ago
    Audi TT Offroad concept debuts as a 124-mpg hybrid with wireless charging

    The TT. Audi's diminutive sports car. Since production began in 1998, the two-door coupe has aged with the pugnacity of a grizzled New Yorker, but not in size. And why would it, as the arrival of the TT RS proved, adding some grit makes for a rather captivating dish. And so you'll excuse us for being puzzled by the Audi TT Offroad concept.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.