Transport fares and concessions
Mr Yee Jenn Jong (Non-Constituency Member): Sir, there are many requests for more public transport concessions for the disabled and for polytechnic students. On 21 November last year, Minister Lui Tuck Yew said that the Public Transport Council was aware of the concession request for these two groups and would work with the operators to see how best this request could be considered in future reviews of fares.
I feel the opportune time for review is now, especially with the Government investing $1.1 billion in the operations of new buses for the public transport operators. This Budget is called an inclusive budget that provides targeted help to those most in need of them. It would be a good gesture by the public transport operators to reciprocate our Government’s generosity by granting this request to these two groups who truly need better concessions.
Mr Lui Tuck Yew:
Several Members – Er Dr Lee Bee Wah, Mr Liang Eng Hwa, Ms Jessica Tan, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Mr Cedric Foo, Mr Alex Yam and Mr Yee Jenn Jong, I have noted all their names down – had asked for fare concessions to be extended to the polytechnic students, while Mr Baey Yam Keng and Mr Yee Jenn Jong mentioned the disabled, and Mr Baey Yam Keng mentioned PA recipients. I have taken careful note of what they said.
Sir, when I first joined the Ministry, I said that I was most sympathetic to the senior citizens and their desire for full-day concessions. So I thank the PTC and the operators for giving due consideration to this hint when they extended senior citizen concession hours as part of the 2011 Fare Revision Exercise. I am still reminded by my senior residents today who have benefitted from this tremendously, especially for those who need to commute in the morning hours by public transport to go to work.
Now that senior citizens have been granted their full-day concessions, the next groups that I am sympathetic to are the disabled and the polytechnic students. And I think for the Public Assistance recipients, many of them actually already come under the category of senior citizens and for others, we have other measures to target our help to them, especially through the public transport vouchers. So the two groups that I am most sympathetic to are the disabled and the polytechnic students. But, again, I urge Members to be patient as not all of these requests can be addressed immediately or entirely within a single Fare Revision Exercise.
Mr Baey Yam Keng asked a very useful specific question on the role of the PTC. PTC is now the authority to require the PTOs to give concessions in situations when there is a fare adjustment. The PTC can do so by requiring the operators to comply with the condition for concession before they are granted the fare increase. This was done for senior citizens in last year’s fare adjustment. However, PTC obviously needs to also bear in mind the impact on fares, especially adult fares, which are cross-subsidising the revenue loss from the concessionary fares. For this reason, the PTC, while sympathetic to all these requests for concessions cannot accede to all of them immediately or entirely within a single fare adjustment exercise. But I know that when future fare revisions take place, the PTC, which is acutely aware of the different requests for concessions, will work with the operators to give careful consideration to all these appeals. Well, such concessions will not be given out in 2012. I shook my head when many Members made their appeals, as concessions will not be given out in 2012 because there will be no fare increase and no fare revision exercise this year.
The current fare formula is due for review this year for implementation in 2013. I intend to appoint PTC member, Mr Richard Magnus, to head the Committee for the review. He has just joined the PTC recently, and Mr Magnus will bring a new pair of eyes and a fresh mind to the task. His Review Committee will seek views widely, study the possible options and propose improvements to the framework for the fare review exercise, including the price cap formula that we will adopt.
Sir, the outcome of the review should be a framework that continues to achieve a good balance between affordable public transport fares and sustainable public transport operations and which continues to ensure productivity and efficiency. I look forward to the Committee completing its work within a year.
While this review is on-going, we should not rush to implement this year’s fare adjustment, even though we recognise that the operators are facing significant cost pressures, especially on the bus side. Hence, I discussed this matter with PTC Chairman, Mr Gerard Ee, and he has agreed to my suggestion that we suspend this year’s fare adjustment exercise. Instead, the new fare formula, which will be ready in 2013, could take into consideration the fact that fare adjustments were not made in 2012. So, no fare revisions, no increases this year and we will also await further future revisions in order for the concessions to be considered in due course.