NO INCREASE IN BUS FARE TO M'SIA DESPITE TOLL HIKES

SINGAPORE — Commuters using public buses and tour coaches to travel to Malaysia can breathe easy despite the recent announcements on the Causeway toll hikes, at least for now.

The three public bus services that go to Johor Baru are classified as basic services, for which fares can be revised only at the Public Transport Council’s (PTC) annual round of fare reviews.

And the PTC told TODAY it has not received any application from either SBS Transit, which runs services 160 and 170, or SMRT, which runs the 950 service, to revise these fares.

Fares for basic bus services, including 160, 170 and 950, were last revised in April. Queries to both public transport operators were unanswered by press time.

Similarly, private bus operators say they have no plans to raise ticket prices at the moment. Grassland Express and Tours’ general manager Tan Boon Huat and his counterpart at CitiExchange Express said their companies would absorb the hike.

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Last month, Malaysia started charging higher tolls for entering Johor via the Causeway. It also imposed a new fee for exiting the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex at the Sultan Iskandar Building.

Last week, the Singapore Government announced that it would match these moves beginning Oct 1.

While the toll hikes appear to have had a less significant impact on buses because of their passenger load, the additional cost could add up when a higher number of trips are made.

Private coach companies declined to reveal the number of trips they make across the Causeway, but a check on bus schedules for Aeroline, for example, showed at least nine buses leave Singapore daily. Grassland, which operates services to many locations in Malaysia, runs 13 buses per day to Kuala Lumpur alone.

As for public buses, SBS Transit services 160 and 170 each run four to five buses an hour between the peak hours of 5pm to 7pm. In that same window, SMRT’s service 950 runs five to six times. The route for service 170 runs from the Queen Street Terminal to Larkin Terminal, while bus service 160 runs from Jurong East Interchange to Kotaraya II Terminal. Service 950 plies the Woodlands to Kotaraya II Terminal route.

Most motorists, however, were not swayed to switch to travelling by bus to Malaysia despite the cost savings they could enjoy.

A drive across the Causeway will cost S$3.80 and RM9.70 from Oct 1, while private bus services, such as the Singapore-Johore Express, cost only S$2.40 one way.

Engineer Peter Ong, 56, said travelling by bus was too inconvenient, especially since the bulk of his trips involves weekend stays in his Malaysian home. Likewise, Mr Ryan Lin, 32, a lawyer, said the higher charges are unlikely to affect his travel patterns since his trips north of the border are infrequent.

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