Financing Model For Public Transport To Be Reviewed If Demand Continues To Be Low

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There’s one saying that’s really apt for Covid-19:

“The only constant in life is change”

And you know what else might change?

Our public transport financing model.

Here’s How It Started

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Tuesday, 5 May, that transport operators in Singapore have been suffering financially even before Covid-19, kind of like the Jurong West Hawker Centre.

And now, it’s been made worse by the Covid-19 outbreak and the Circuit Breaker imposed by the government.

Ridership, he pointed out, has dropped by 75% (buses) and 84% (trains). Fare revenues have also dropped by 80%.

Yet the operators have to continue supplying the same amount of trains and buses because of safe distancing measures.

If you remember, the transport operators tried to lower the frequency of trains but were forced to revert after suffering backlash for doing so.

He added that the operators also had to spend money to:

  • clean and disinfect buses
  • protect their staff with masks and face shields
  • provide accommodation for Malaysian workers
  • and deploying safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers

“These costs would eventually have to be borne by operators and taxpayers, as they are not adequately covered by current fares.”

He noted that now, the impact on operators has been “partially” cushioned by schemes like:

  • Jobs Support Scheme (JSS)
  • property tax rebates
  • the waiver of the foreign worker levy
  • and temporary suspension of Electronic Road Pricing

What About The Future?

Associate Professor Theseira asked in parliament about what would happen in the “near and medium” future if this persists.

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Mr Khaw responded that it’s too early to say yet and that they have to monitor the situation and see if the demand for public transport will recover to “pre-Covid-19” levels or not.

And should it not recovered, they will have to look at the “public transport financing model”.

When fares increased last year, it was because the cost of running public transport has increased due to manpower wages and a global increase in energy prices.

Both SMRT and SBS Transit reported hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and applied for a 7 per cent increase from the Public Transport Council (PTC) which was approved.

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