WP's 'predictable' response criticised

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party (WP) on Friday welcomed a slew of new public transport concession schemes, but called for fare hikes to be delayed until all of these schemes are rolled out.

Its statement drew a swift response from Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo.

Writing on her Facebook page, she said the opposition party "never misses an opportunity to pander, and its response to the fare review exercise was, to a large extent, predictable".

The WP had said that those with disabilities, senior citizens, low-wage workers, students and full-time national servicemen, who will benefit from a slew of concessions soon, would "finally enjoy some overdue relief for their travel needs, for which the public and the WP have lobbied for years".

Ms Teo said it was "always easy" to claim credit.

"Except someone else did the real work of sorting out the maths and getting the balance right," she added.

The WP also pointed out that the fare hikes announced on Thursday come on the back of a $1.1 billion government subsidy for the public transportation system, through the Bus Services Enhancement Fund.

The WP, Ms Teo said, wants better services, and opposes public transport operators getting more fares. But it "conveniently avoids the question of how better services are to be paid for".

She added: "More buses, more drivers, more trips on the road, more depots and interchanges, more maintenance, more equipment.

"In WP's world, these things can all be achieved without more effort and resources. Not in the real world."

Finally, Ms Teo also took issue with the WP calling for fare increases to start only when concession schemes for low-wage workers and those with disabilities are implemented on July 6, instead of on April 6.

"Would have been better if they read the reports carefully - transport vouchers of between $30 to $80 are going to both groups from April to tide them over," she said.

"And everyone else who needs extra can get additional vouchers year-round."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.