Bus, train fares to increase by 4 to 20 cents this year

SINGAPORE — Starting from April 6, adult fares for buses and trains are set to increase by four to 20 cents, announced the Public Transport Council (PTC) this afternoon (Jan 16). Those paying by cash will pay more, with fares set to rise by 20 cents per trip.

For senior citizens and students, fares will increase by two to 10 cents per journey, with those paying cash having to pay more.

“Commuters are strongly encouraged to use contactless smartcards, instead of paying cash fares to enjoy lower fares,” said the PTC.

Following applications for fare hikes submitted by both SMRT and SBS Transit last month, the PTC accepted their proposals to adjust fares by 6.6 per cent – a combined quantum using the new fare formula proposed by the Fare Review Mechanism Committee and the old formula for the suspended fare adjustment exercise from 2012.

Public transport fares was last increased in 2011, while adjustments were suspended since 2012 while the FRMC reviewed the formula and framework by which public transport fares are adjusted.

In the new fare formula, the FRMC proposed that the PTC be given the discretion to defer a portion of any fare hikes to spread out the impact of large increases.

With this in mind, the PTC decided to increase fares by 3.2 per cent this year, and roll over the balance of 3.4 per cent to the 2014 exercise.

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Stressing that the “issue of affordability has always been a priority” for the council when considering fare hikes, PTC chairman Gerard Ee said: “Clearly, 6.6 per cent in one go is very high, and so, to minimise the impact on commuters, it was quite obvious to us that we should just do part of the increase this year, and roll-over the rest, as provided for under the new “roll-over” mechanism as recommended in the FRMC report.”

Heeding a call from Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew to not grant any fare increase that exceeds the last year’s average national wage increase, Mr Ee also said that the 3.2 per cent increase is “significantly lower” than the expected four to five per cent increase in average national wage last year.

He said: “We don’t have the full year’s data, but it is about 4.1 per cent increase based on January to September data, and likely to be close to five per cent for the full-year because of generally better year-end bonuses for 2013 compared to 2012.”

To “mitigate” costs from the fare increase, the PTC will implement “in full” the FRMC’s recommendations to enhance to five existing concession schemes which will benefit children below the age of seven, students enrolled in polytechnics and private institutions, senior citizens and adult commuters who are heavy users of public transport. These will also kick in on April 6.

Two new concession schemes – funded by the government at an expected cost of S$50 million a year - will also be implemented to benefit the disabled and lower-income group starting July 6. About 400,000 low-wage workers and 50,000 persons with disabilities are expected to benefit from these two schemes in the first year.

Addressing concerns on the larger roll-over increase of 3.4 per cent for the 2014 exercise, Mr Ee said that the council also considered the fare adjustments for next year, pointing out that it is expected to be “a negative figure, most likely at around minus 0.3 per cent” based on available estimates.

“We will only know for sure and be able to finalise the figure sometime around April. Assuming this is so, then we have perhaps about 3.1 per cent fare increase for the 2014 exercise, roughly the same, and likely slight lower than the 3.2 per cent for 2013,” he added.

From this year’s fare adjustment, the public transport operators are expected to receive a gain of S$53.5 million – or 3.2 per cent – in revenue.

To help needy families adjust to the fare hikes, SMRT and SBST will be contributing a one-off total of S$11.58 million into the Public Transport Fund for this year’s exercise as required.

Responding to the PTC’s decision, SMRT said: “We note the PTC’s decision. It has made an attempt to achieve a balance between public affordability and the increased level of operational costs associated with the delivery of a safe, reliable and commuter-centric transport system.”

The transport operator added that it supports the establishment of the Public Transport Fund to help ease the travel expenses of those in need. “We are continuing with our contributions to fare concessions for the various commuter groups as determined by the PTC,” said SMRT.

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