Khaw: Transport fares will go up to improve service
Govt spending to improve service standards 'not sustainable'
As public transport service standards improve in the coming years, commuters can expect fares to rise as well.
This is because the improvements come at a price as the Government invests more in buses and trains, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
During the debate of his ministry's budget in Parliament yesterday, Mr Khaw said that improvements to public transport services had pushed up operating costs by about 60 per cent over the past five years.
"This huge cost increase has been borne by the Government. Namely, taxpayers. Against such rising cost, fares have gone down by 2 per cent over the same period," he said.
While underscoring that transport fares must remain affordable, Mr Khaw cautioned against pricing it too cheaply as maintaining Singapore's top-notch transport system requires resources.
He agreed with Miss Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) that the current fare formula was inadequate, and there had been an alarming spike in public transport subsidies.
Mr Khaw, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, said: "Cheap fares are popular, but they are not sustainable."
Over the next five years, Mr Khaw said the Government will spend about $5 billion on public bus services subsidies and $4 billion to renew rail operating assets.
Another $20 billion will be invested in infrastructure to further expand the public transport network, he added.
Mr Khaw said: "The Government will continue to subsidise public transport to keep fares affordable. However, every dollar spent on transport is a dollar less for other expenditure like schools, healthcare and security."
The Public Transport Council is currently reviewing the fare formula.
Commuters must expect more early closures and late openings (ECLO) of train stations on the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL). These will continue beyond June, said Mr Khaw.
Last December, service hours on these lines were shortened to allow for maintenance and repair works.
The Land Transport Authority and SMRT said yesterday that this move had sped up the installation and testing of the new signalling system along the East-West Line by six months. But more time was needed to rejuvenate the NSEWL lines' critical rail systems.
Responding to Mr Melvin Yong's (Tanjong Pagar GRC) question regarding this issue, Mr Khaw said: "ECLO will continue, especially for old lines where we have to juggle limited engineering time between maintenance and the renewal of ageing systems."