Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Study HK fare structure and adapt

THE way Hong Kong structures its train and bus fares can be a model that Singapore can adapt to good use, said Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC), who is also SBS Transit vice-president.

His suggestion was among several made yesterday by at least three MPs on how the public transport system could be improved.

In Hong Kong, transport operators are allowed to raise prices only when their average return on net fixed assets falls below a specified level. And when they make a profit above a specified level, half of it has to be shared with commuters in forms such as fare rebates.

But they can keep the other half. This is to spur them to improve productivity and look for other sources of revenue, like advertising.

'Look at this model and adapt to our local context,' Mr Ang urged the Government, adding that fare revisions are sensitive matters, 'even if it means a two-cent adjustment'.

Since earlier this month, adults using ez-link cards have to pay two cents more every time they take a bus or MRT train. Senior citizens pay one cent more for each journey.

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland- Bukit Timah GRC) wants bigger off-peak discounts to be introduced on buses and trains and to cover more areas. This will help address the regular complaints of overcrowding and the long wait for trains during the morning and evening peak hours, he said.

At the moment, SMRT has a 30-cent off-peak morning discount for those travelling on its North-South, East-West and Bukit Panjang lines. Commuters have to exit at nine selected city stations.

Mr de Souza also called for more wheelchair-friendly buses and for them to be on the road more often. Concessionary fares should be given to disabled commuters, 'in line with Singapore's aspirations to become a more inclusive society'.

Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam from the Workers' Party asked for trains to arrive every two minutes from 7am to 9am, and from 5pm to 8pm, instead of a narrow window of around half an hour on weekday mornings and evenings.

He takes the train to work and said he often has to wait for two or three trains to pass before he is able to board one.