PUBLIC transport must remain affordable to all Singaporeans, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said last night at the start of this year’s fare-review exercise.

He wrote in a Facebook post that he hopes the Public Transport Council (PTC) will study whether it is possible to insulate vulnerable groups such as senior citizens from a fare increase – or at least mitigate the impact on them.

He also said the Land Transport Authority has been tasked with studying ongoing travel-demand management efforts and encouraging more commuters to travel during off-peak hours.

To achieve the latter, he suggested: “Perhaps the Government can introduce off-peak monthly passes which should also help reduce the travel expenditure for this group of commuters.”

Public-transport operators may submit fare-review applications to the council for consideration by Dec 19.

Results will be announced in the first quarter of next year.

A PTC spokesman said that evaluations will be guided by the fare-review mechanism and fare-adjustment formula recommended by the Fare Review Mechanism Committee and accepted by the Government in November last year.

These include lower fares for lower-wage workers and the disabled, concessions for polytechnic students, free travel for children below seven years old and the introduction of an adult monthly travel pass which offers unlimited travel for $120.

However, last year’s changes also increased fares by 6.6 per cent in two phases – 3.2 per cent from April, and 3.4 per cent next year. The forthcoming review could further revise next year’s prices.

Mr Lui said the Ministry of Transport will study how concession schemes for lower-wage workers and the disabled can be enhanced. He also hopes the PTC will consider not raising the prices of travel passes.

The PTC said it will ensure a “good balance” between meeting the needs of the commuting public and keeping the public-transport system financially sustainable. Its spokesman added: “The PTC will pay particular attention to fare affordability for the more vulnerable groups of commuters.”

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chairman Cedric Foo pointed out that part of the fare-adjustment formula used in the review is a new energy index which passes fuel cost savings to commuters.

“I am hopeful that with lower fuel prices, transport operators can pass on lower fuel prices to commuters,” said Mr Foo, who is also a Member of Parliament for Pioneer.

“Given the slew of concessions this year, and the introduction of public-transport vouchers for the vulnerable group who fall out the net, there does seem to be a good balance between commuter and public-transport operator needs.”

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