Wednesday 28 November 2012

Fare review committee calls for more help for poorer S'poreans

Panel head says fare hikes have 'uneven impact', especially those in lower-income group
TODAY, 27 Nov 2012

More can be done to help lower-income Singaporeans cope with public transport fare increases, said the Fare Review Mechanism Committee Chairman yesterday.

In a post published on the committee's blog, Mr Richard Magnus, who leads the 13-member panel, said affordability was a concern expressed by almost all of the commuters in two focus group discussions.

While most felt that public transport fares here "are generally affordable" to the average Singaporean, they pointed out that fare increases "have an uneven impact" on different groups of Singaporeans, especially on those who have low incomes.

"My committee shares the same sentiment," said Mr Magnus.

"Beyond looking at the affordability of public transport to the 'average household', which the Public Transport Council keeps track of, we think more can be done for the lower income (group), and (we should look at) what help is needed for this group to cope with fare increases," he added.

The committee, which will submit recommendations to the Transport Minister early next year, was formed in June to review a formula by which bus and train fares are adjusted here.

The current fare formula hinges on the consumer price index, wage increase and productivity of the two transport companies here.

On the fare formula, Mr Magnus said the committee feels that the price-cap approach and the productivity component should be retained, as these preserve incentives for the operators to be cost-efficient in their operations.

The committee is also looking very carefully at other refinements to the formula to better reflect the operators' cost structures.

He noted that "quite a number of participants" accepted the need for fare increases, as this was necessary to keep pace with the operators' general cost increases.

More importantly, they felt it also enables the public transport operators to give appropriate wage increases to their bus captains, train operators, mechanics and other service staff, said Mr Magnus.


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