Dear A.S.S. Editor

I refer to the article “Transport fare formula review amid hints of hike” (Straits Times, Apr 6). It states that “The Public Transport Council (PTC) has started its review of the formula through which bus and train fares are adjusted yearly, amid hints of a possible hike.

The PTC said yesterday that it would propose improvements to the formula, given the changes in the public transport industry. With the Government taking ownership of bus and rail assets and stepping up efforts to ramp up services, the burden of subsidising public transport has effectively shifted to the taxpayer. PTC chairman Richard Magnus hinted at the possibility of a fare increase in his blog post yesterday. “Service improvements come at a cost,” he said. Mr Magnus noted how the public transport system has evolved since 2013 – when the current formula was introduced – through the injection of more trains and buses, and greater service reliability.

However, he added: “We will ensure that fares will remain affordable for our commuters.” Referring to the PTC, he said that the council “cannot always bring good news”. In December, overall fares fell 4.2 per cent. But Mr Khaw said: “Sometimes, they have to adjust fares upwards. If they do, I hope commuters will be understanding.” As to “He also highlighted that over the next five years, close to $4 billion will be spent on subsidising public bus services, and another $4 billion on replacing rail assets. This is in addition to the $20 billion that the Government has committed to building new infrastructure.

Mr Magnus added that “there will need to be equitable cost sharing among commuters, taxpayers and public transport operators”, and that there was a need to consider the long-term financial viability of the public transport system” – does it make much sense to you that the Government is willing to spend $8 billion to, in essence help the transport operators, but is arguably not willing to spend any money to help commuters – and want to increase fares?

With regard to “Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also raised the possibility of higher transport fares last month. He had said in Parliament that it was not sustainable for taxpayers to increasingly subsidise the costs of running the public transport system” – since the Government’s revenue from transport was $9.2 billion in the last financial year – isn’t it still making money from transport, even after spending the projected $8 billion in the next five years, and “the $20 billion that the Government has committed to building new infrastructure” (over how many years? more than five years?)?

Moreover, we had a Budget surplus of $5.2 billion for the last financial year.

Leong Sze Hian

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