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Public transport fare hike: Commuters to pay up to 11 cents more per journey from December

Public transport fare hike: Commuters to pay up to 11 cents more per journey from December
The overall cost of bus and train rides will go up by seven per cent.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE — From Dec 23, public transport fares for adults who pay by card will climb by up to 11 cents, as the overall cost of bus and train rides goes up by seven per cent.

Adult card fares will increase by 10 cents for journeys of up to 4.2km and 11 cents for rides beyond 4.2km, the Public Transport Council (PTC) said on Monday (Sept 18) after it concluded its yearly fare review exercise.

Concessionary fares for seniors, students, people with disabilities and low-wage workers who pay by card will go up by four cents for journeys of up to 4.2km and five cents for longer rides. There are about two million commuters, or half of Singaporeans, in this group.

This year's increase is the steepest since the hike in 2019, when fares also rose by seven per cent. The 11-cent increase is also the highest on record.

PTC said fares could have gone up by 22.6 per cent in 2023 — the highest allowable increase since 1998, when PTC began using formulas to set a cap on fare changes.

This comprises a 12 per cent increase derived from a new fare formula introduced for the 2023 exercise, as well as a 10.6 per cent hike rolled over from the 2022 exercise, said PTC.

The 2023 adjustment was spurred largely by a 62.3 per cent rise in energy prices in 2022 as well as growth in core inflation and wages, said the council.

Transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT Trains had applied for the full 22.6 per cent hike in 2023, citing reasons such as higher energy prices, a competitive labour market, as well as a slow and uncertain recovery in ridership.

Public transport ridership remains at about 90 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels.

PTC said it decided against granting the full increase to keep fares affordable in the present "higher cost environment".

The remaining increase of 15.6 per cent will be postponed to future fare review exercises.

PTC said this deferment was possible because the Government is providing an extra $300 million in public transport subsidies in 2023, on top of the more than $2 billion in subsidies it already shells out every year to keep services running.

"The additional government subsidy will help to moderate the level of fare increase needed to keep pace with the higher cost of providing public transport, while keeping fares affordable for commuters," the council added.

The Ministry of Transport said operators will "have to manage their costs tightly, do more with less, and continue to pay fair wages to their workers".

Fares rose by 2.9 per cent in 2022 and 2.2 per cent in 2021. In 2020, there was a freeze in fares to help commuters cope with the economic impact of Covid-19.

PTC said on Monday that adults paying cash for bus rides will have to fork out 20 cents more, while concessionary cash fares for students, seniors and people with disabilities will rise by 10 cents.

Less than 1 per cent of commuters pay cash for bus rides.

New monthly concession pass for low-wage workers

Meanwhile, the Government will introduce a monthly hybrid — or bus and train — concession travel pass for low-wage workers costing $96 from Dec 23. This is $32 off the price of adult monthly travel passes, which will stay unchanged at $128.

The cost of monthly hybrid travel passes for other concessionary groups — including seniors, national servicemen and students — will come down by up to 10 per cent, or between $4.50 and $9.50.

The cost of a monthly concession pass for people with disabilities will also be reduced from $64 to $58 — the same as that for seniors.  

These passes allow unlimited travel on all modes of public transport except express buses.

About 60,000 people are expected to benefit from these moves. These include existing holders of monthly passes as well as those expected to buy them, said PTC.

To help Singaporeans cope with the fare increase, the Government will also hand out public transport vouchers worth $50 each to resident households with a monthly income of up to S$1,600 per person.

These vouchers can be used to top up fare cards or buy monthly passes. Last year, it made available 600,000 public transport vouchers worth $30 each.

In line with the steeper fare hike in 2023, PTC said it would require SBS Transit and SMRT Trains to make larger contributions to the Public Transport Fund, which helps households cope with fare increases.

SBS Transit will have to contribute 15 per cent of its expected revenue increase, or $3.14 million, and SMRT Trains will have to dish out 30 per cent of the same, or $12.71 million.

PTC said its data shows that fares remain affordable.

On average, households in the 21st to 40th percentile — the average public transport user — spent 1.7 per cent of their monthly income on public transport in 2022, compared with 1.8 per cent in 2021.

Lower-income households in the 11th to 20th percentile spent about 2.4 per cent of their income on public transport in 2022 — down from 2.5 per cent in 2021.

After accounting for the fare and wage increases in 2023, households are expected to spend roughly the same proportion of their income on public transport as that in 2022, said the council.

ALSO READ: School bus fares to rise by up to 13% in 2024 following January's hike of up to 7%

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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