WORKERS PARTY: “A BETTER WAY TO CALCULATE FARE HIKES”

BY CHARISSA YONG, Straits Times

A speaker at a Workers’ Party Youth Wing forum yesterday proposed a way to incorporate public transport service standards into fare hikes.

The WP had previously mooted taking service quality into account after a new fare formula that was introduced last year did not do so. But the Government shot it down as impractical.

Stressing that this was a personal proposal and not the party’s view, IT professional Nathaniel Koh, 30, who is the WP Youth Wing’s secretary, suggested that having an index to take into account service standards in the fare formula may not be so complicated.

He noted that public transport operators had already set service standards for themselves in their charters.

For example, SMRT pledges to have at least 94 per cent of trains arrive within two minutes of schedule. SBS Transit pledges waiting times of at most 10 minutes for 90 per cent of feeder bus services during peak periods, he said.

Whether operators meet these standards or not can be measured and converted into an index. The percentage change in the index each year can then be used in the fare formula, which sets a cap on how high fares can be raised.

This is similar to how changes in inflation, electricity and diesel costs are taken into account in the fare formula now, he added.

“This is an option that can set the basis for future discussions,” said Mr Koh.

A 3.2 per cent fare hike took effect last week, with new and enhanced concessions for commuters to come later in July.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew had said last year that Singapore uses a unified, relatively straightforward public transport fare structure.

Hence, allowing different operators different fare increases according to their varying service qualities would be hard. The Public Transport Council (PTC) has also said it prefers to keep fares and service quality separate.

The forum at the party’s headquarters at Syed Alwi Road was attended by 15 people, including Aljunied GRC MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap.

Mr Koh’s co-speaker, WP executive council member Dennis Tan, said that the fare hike had generated unhappiness because it came at a time when people were already unhappy with train breakdowns.

Mr Tan acknowledged the PTC’s position that fare hikes were needed to cope with rising operating costs, but added: “There is a mismatch of expectations between commuters and the authorities.”

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