PTC reviewing fare schemes

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Off-peak fares on rail network may become permanent but regular fares may rise

Commuters travelling during off-peak periods could see a permanent reduction in fares in the future, however regular fares may go up given rising costs.

Public Transport Council (PTC) chairman Richard Magnus, in a blog post yesterday, said that the Transport Ministry and the PTC since June have been reviewing two schemes aimed to ease peak-period congestion on the rail network.

The aim was to "assess if tiered or differentiated fares to incentivise off-peak travel on public transport should become a permanent feature".

"The concentration of travel within a few hours each day is resource-intensive and inefficient," he noted. "A more sustainable solution is to spread out travel demand across the day."

Currently, more than 65,000 commuters benefit from the Free Pre-Peak Travel scheme, which was introduced in 2013 and allows commuters free rides if they reach any of 18 MRT stations in the city area before 7.45am.

Those who alight at these stations between 7.45am and 8am get a discount of up to 50 cents.

Another 13,000 commuters opt for the Off-Peak Pass scheme every month. At $80 a month, it allows adult commuters to enjoy unlimited rides on buses and trains during off-peak hours on weekdays and all day on weekends and public holidays.

Mr Magnus said Singapore's experiment with differentiated fares was not new. Cities like Sydney and London, have been differentiating peak and off-peak fares "with some success".

The Land Transport Authority has said that about 7 per cent of commuters have adjusted their morning travel to the off-peak period after the introduction of the schemes.

"The council is therefore evaluating travel patterns to determine how a differential fare mechanism can best help smoothen travel demand in Singapore," said Mr Magnus.

He noted the Government will spend $20 billion on new rail infrastructure over the next five years, on top of a $4 billion investment in the upgrading and expansion of rail operating assets, and another $4 billion on bus contracting subsidies.

"They raise operating costs and impose a heavy cost burden on taxpayers," he said.

"The council therefore cannot turn a blind eye to this trend of rising costs but will have to ensure the viability of the public transport system is sustained."

Mr Magnus said the PTC is in its annual fare review, and is looking at the 2017 fare adjustment and rail operators' proposals "against this background".

Citing a study that compared Singapore's transport fares with 35 other cities, Mr Magnus said rail fares here are among the lowest in Asia, and are "considerably lower" than those of cities in Australia and Europe.

Commuters he talked to in focus group discussions agreed that fares here were affordable, he added. "We must, and will, continue to keep the voices of our commuters firmly at the forefront, even as we consider the rising costs."

TransportLand Transport Authority