Public transport fares have not kept up with rising operating costs, says Khaw Boon Wan

Something's gotta give.

By Jeanette Tan | March 8, 2017

With all the money the government (aka taxpayers) will be spending on our public transport system in the coming years, it’s inevitable fares will have to go up to maintain a fair balance of costs.

This was the message from Transport Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan, who spoke in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar. 8) at the beginning of the Ministry of Transport’s Committee of Supply debate.

In the concluding topic of his speech, Minister Khaw said now that the government owns our buses and rail assets, a lot more money will have to be spent on renewing, replacing and maintaining them.

He explained that fare revenue for buses, for instance, goes to the government, but it is insufficient to cover operating costs, so the government (aka taxpayers) absorbs the rest.

These are the numbers he shared in terms of costs over the next five years:

– Between $3.5 and $4 billion will be spent on subsidising public bus services.
– $4 billion will be spent on rail asset replacement — for instance, buying the 66 new trains to replace the oldest ones from the North-South and East-West Lines.
– $20 billion will be spent on new public transport infrastructure.

“We must ensure that the fiscal burden does not become too excessive for taxpayers. In the earlier years, we split the responsibility by having taxpayers fund the construction of transport infrastructure, while commuters bear the operating costs through transport fares. But over the years, as fares have not kept up with rising costs, taxpayers have to subsidise more and more of the operating costs, especially as we have been raising service standards significantly.”

Bearing in mind that many commuters are taxpayers, too, Khaw says a “fair balance” must be struck between taxpayer, commuter and transport operator.

Reminding the House that our current public transport fares, as well as the formula used to calculate it, expire after this year, Khaw warns that the Public Transport Council will review and “consult widely” before deciding on the new one.

He noted that they had made a bold step last year to standardise MRT train fares across the board, describing it as “a sacred cow” and noticing the decrease in fares on the Circle Line, which Khaw says he takes often.

“But remember: the PTC cannot always bring good news, sometimes they have to adjust fares upwards. If they do, I hope commuters will be understanding.”

Since you’re here how about another article:

They say we can buy anything online, so here’s a life-sized gummy snake

Watch out, paper qualifications. Real life experience is coming for you.


Top photo from Khaw Boon Wan’s Facebook page

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About Jeanette Tan

Jeanette takes pride in her ability to sing the complete lyrics to Hakuna Matata and a host of other Disney songs. She holds out hope to someday be talent-spotted to do voice-overs for documentaries, lifts and automated telephone answering systems.

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