Experts Say Public Transport Operators Might Have to Reduce Capacity & Increase Fares Due to Lower Ridership

Here are two undeniable truths about public transport in Singapore this year:

  • They’re making losses
  • They have to provide “above-capacity” transport services because people need to have a safe distance between them.

But how long do they have to last? And can they?

Well, transport analysts have stepped forward to put in their own two-cents worth, and they’ve got more than a few suggestions for public transport to survive, yet keep people safe.

Follow The Three Phases Of Reopening:

After 1 June, Singapore will (highly likely) enter into the three phases of reopening.

First phase: more businesses open, some students return but retail and dine-out still not available.

Second phase: small social gathering allowed, “high-risk” activities still banned.

Third phase: almost back to normal except with additional measures

Experts are saying that public transports can follow along with the three phases and adjust their operations accordingly.

First Phase: No Choice, Make Losses

In the first phase where safety is still the number one priority, transport operators have no choice but to offer “above-capacity” transport services (e.g. a frequency of 3 to 5 minutes for trains even if ridership cuts by more than half).

Stomach the losses and keep the trains and buses running, they urged.

Second Phase: Cut Operating Hours

Push the last timings for buses and trains forward. After all, late-night entertainment venues like bars, pubs, clubs, cinemas and more won’t be open anyway.

Transport analysts also believe that the government will start to get schools and companies to start staggering work hours.

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This could potentially help to reduce peak-hour congestion.

However, they warned, national policies must be well-coordinated so that the capacity of public transport is not “over- or under-provided”.

Here, you can read how the public transport companies were forced to yo-yo earlier this year.

Third Phase: Fare Hikes

By phase 3, as people start working again and aren’t that financially tight, that is when public transport companies can combine capacity cuts and fare hikes.

It was assumed that any adjustment (read: increase) made to the fare is because of “excess capacity” (too many trains, too little riders).

So in essence, it simply means that riders are paying more for emptier trains. In other words, a “better-quality” ride.

Capacity cuts could also help to reduce overheads further.

It was also suggested that a special levy can be placed on employers who are placed near public transport nodes.

“The idea there, is that employers are the ones who benefit from having public transport connectivity, so they should pay.”

TL; DR: Tax those who are near MRT stations, probably.

Fare Hikes Not For Some Time

Now, if you’re growling at the thought of having to pay more now that you’re finally allowed out of the house, chill.


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The fare hikes won’t be immediate and experts believe that fares will be kept constant for now due to the “state of the economy”.

Phase 3 is likely to start next year and that’s probably when the issue of fare hikes will be raised up again.

Previously, the transport minister had mentioned that come post-CB, they’ll monitor the situation and see if the financing model framework for public transport in Singapore needs to be changed.

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