I refer to the article “Maximum fine for rail disruptions raised to 10% of line’s annual fare revenue” (Straits Times, Feb 18).

Increase in penalties for disruptions

It states that “Rail operators SMRT and SBS Transit stand to face much heftier fines for train disruptions in future, after Parliament passed a Bill on Monday to raise the maximum penalty to 10 per cent of the annual fare revenue of a rail line.

That could be many times higher than the current cap of $1 million for each incident.”

I was in Parliament yesterday – and I must say the Parliamentary proceedings and debate was kind of boring – where often the obvious was not debated with much vigour or at all.

At the end of the day – who pays?

Who may ultimately end up paying for this increased penalty quantum – the commuters?

Penalties means increased costs?

As long as the Fare Review Formula remains in its current form whereby the increased costs of the operators is one of the components – any penalties may simply be translated into increased costs.

Increased costs means fare increase?

Moreover, “increased costs” is one of the primary reasons cited for approving the recent fare hike.

In other developed countries, I understand that such penalties are passed back to commuters.

The poor commuters always at the short end?

Why and how could we have passed a bill that ignores this obvious principle of fairness and equity to commuters?

Can spend $1.1b to help operators, but …?

As to “SMRT was hit with the maximum $2 million for two major disruptions on the North South Line on Dec 15 and 17 in 2011 that affected more than 220,000 commuters in total.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said the new penalty guidelines will better reflect the severity of incidents and their impact on commuters, as well as enhance their deterrent effect”

– if we can spend $1.1 billion on buses to help the transport operators, why are we depriving commuters of these increased penalties?

Increased penalties may wipe out the profits from the fare increase?

By the way, the recent frequency and severity of breakdowns may result in the increased penalties being even more than the projected increase in profits of the transport operators after the fare increase.

Win-win for the operators and the Government – Lose-lose for commuters!

Uniquely Singapore!

Leong Sze Hian

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