Singapore

Bus, train fares may rise by up to 7%, says PTC

If approved, potential fare hike could be highest in recent years

Bus and train fares could go up by as much as 7 per cent next year, driven largely by steeply rising energy prices.

This means fares could go up by as much as 10 cents for those who pay for their journeys by card, who make up more than 90 per cent of commuters here.

This is the maximum increase that can be allowed under the current fare formula, which came into place last year and will be in place until 2022.

The Public Transport Council (PTC) is embarking upon its annual fare review exercise and if it approves the potential fare hike in full, it would be the highest in recent years.

The council yesterday acknowledged the growing costs and the need to keep the transport system financially sustainable, as well as affordable.

Public transport operators must submit their fare applications - which should not exceed the maximum quantum that can be allowed - to the PTC by Sept 23, the council said in a statement.

Its decision on fares will be announced in the last quarter of this year.

The PTC said that the largest contributing factor to the potential fare hike was the double digit increase in energy prices, which rebounded 26.2 per cent in 2017, and 32.3 per cent last year.

Other components making up the formula - such as the wage index, which measures the change in average wage over the preceding year, and the core consumer price index, which measures the change in inflation rate over the previous year - have also increased over the past year, the council noted.

IMPROVEMENTS

The PTC noted that public transport had improved significantly over the past five years, with the introduction of more than 1,000 buses and 200 trains.

Rail reliability has also seen improvements over this period, with the MRT network hitting one million kilometres between delays, a sevenfold improvement from 2015.

While these improvements have come with an increase in the cost of operations for public transport, the council noted that average fares are now four to seven cents lower than they were in 2015.

A dip in energy prices between 2015 and 2017 saw a combined 8.3 per cent reduction in fares during that time, though last year saw a 4.3 per cent increase in fares.

The PTC said in considering the fare adjustments, it would "consider the views of commuters and relevant stakeholders".

It added it will strike a balance between the affordability and financial sustainability of the public transport system, with special attention paid to concession groups such as the elderly and needy commuters.

Even if fares were to go up by the maximum 7 per cent, fares should still remain affordable, said Singapore Management University transport economist Terence Fan.

"Assuming the various concessions currently in place remain effective, the public should be able to afford the increase."

Initiatives such as the building of infrastructure and replacement of assets are costly, noted Singapore University of Social Sciences urban transport expert Park Byung Joon.

"The money (for such expenses) will have to come either from higher fares or higher taxes," he said.

Transport