Thursday 18 April 2013

Free train rides to city before 7.45am: Land Transport Authority’s one-year trial from 24 June 2013

Year-long trial on weekdays at 16 stations aims to cut peak-hour crush
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 17 Apr 2013

COMMUTERS who travel into the city area before 7.45am on weekdays will get free train rides, as part of a bold government scheme aiming to reduce the peak-hour crush.

Those who get off trains in the city between 7.45am and 8am will get a 50 cent discount on fares.

The incentives are part of a year-long trial that starts on June 24 and is expected to cost the Government $10 million.

The move was announced by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday after he observed commuter traffic at the Raffles Place MRT station. Accompanying him were Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo and Land Transport Authority (LTA) chief executive Chew Hock Yong.

The free rides will apply to 16 MRT stations in the city, including Orchard, Outram Park, Bugis and Bras Basah stations. Commuters using the North East Line will also get free trips as the Chinatown and Clarke Quay stations will be included in the trial.

Currently, around 99,500 commuters pass through these stations every day during the 8am to 9am peak hour, while some 23,000 travel before 7.45am. Mr Lui projected that free rides could move another 10 to 20 per cent of commuters away from the peak period. This translates to between 10,000 and 20,000 train users.

Current incentives such as a 50 cent discount for early travellers have reduced the number of peak commuters by just 3 to 4 per cent. So the Government wanted to do more to reward those who start their journeys earlier, said Mr Lui.

"While we do not know what the outcome will exactly be, we felt it was useful for us to do something that is more impactful than the 50 cent discount."

Mr Lui also sought to allay fears that the incentives will create a new rush hour. The LTA is working with train operators to increase the frequency of trips to handle the additional passengers taking advantage of the free rides. This could mean that those who use trains earlier may have to wait less than the current three to four minutes.

And it is not just about financial incentives. To get more people to make the switch, the Government wants to get more employers to implement staggered work hours, said Mrs Teo.

But commuters may need more convincing. Nearly 60 per cent said they would not want to sacrifice sleep to get a free ride, according to a straw poll by The Straits Times. Executive Felicia Cai, 25, said that travelling earlier will just mean longer hours at the office.

Another 42 of the 100 surveyed, however, are willing to change their travel patterns. IT bank officer Kiran Shenoy, 34, believes he can save as much as $100 a month with the free rides.

The poll findings did not surprise transport analyst Graham Currie, who studied the effectiveness of a similar free travel scheme in Melbourne. He said that the incentives reduced peak- hour traffic in the Australian state by only 2 per cent. But the effort was "worthwhile" as the state government could hold off on investing A$100 million (S$128 million) to improve the train system.


MP Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), who first proposed offering free rides to commuters last month, said the priority now is to make sure the trial is successful, and sustainable. "Nothing is truly free... If it works, then we will have to think of how to pay for this in the long term."

More early starters expected
By Charissa Yong, Tan Sue-Ann and Eugene Chua, The Straits Times, 17 Apr 2013

GOVERNMENT agencies and companies in the Central Business District (CBD) are expecting more employees to come to work earlier, in the light of the new free ride scheme announced yesterday.

It will complement flexible work plans already in place, and encourage others to implement such arrangements, they added.

"For this to work, we need to be more accepting of flexible work practices," said the Public Service Division's (PSD) career development and management director Tan Hoe Soon. "Managers must be mindful that officers who start work earlier should be able to leave the office earlier."

Some 14,000 civil servants work in the 40 or so public agencies around the CBD.

The Workforce Development Agency, located at Marina Boulevard, said that close to 20 per cent of its staff already start work before 8.30am because of a scheme that allows officers to begin as early as 7.30am.

At law firm Rajah and Tann, situated on Battery Road, flexi-work arrangements have also seen some success. By offering early birds breakfast this month, about 45 out of 600 staff have been arriving before 8am each day, said human resource partner Rebecca Chew. She believes the free train rides will encourage more to come earlier.

The financial sector, which is concentrated along Shenton Way and Marina Bay, also welcomed yesterday's move.

But many shops and eateries near the 16 MRT stations in the city may not open earlier just to cater to the early risers. Employees of Tong Keng drugstore and a bookstore at Raffles Place said it made little sense, given the small number of morning customers they have.

The Arcade coffee shop Corner Delights, which opens at 8.30am, said it did not have enough staff to start earlier. But its neighbour, Strangers@Work Specialty Coffee, is looking at opening 30 minutes earlier at 7.30am.

For some commuters, being early is its own reward. Said DBS senior vice-president Roy Tomizawa: "I actually enjoy the smaller crowds when I go in to work before 7.30am. It's really quiet in the office and I can be really productive."

No comments:

Post a Comment