Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s remarks in Parliament yesterday that linking public transport fares to reliability could worsen situation drew immense flak from netizens who felt that his suggestion is “rubbish”.
The Minister was responding to parliamentary questions on whether the new public transport fare formula, which is slated to go into effect at the end of this year, will capture rail reliability and service standards.
Khaw revealed that the new fare formula does not factor in reliability and service standards but claimed that he will personally deal with operators and apply “the sort of focus and pressure I exert on the operators” to ensure rail reliability is maintained:
“Even though it’s not in the fare formula, I deal with it directly myself through the sort of focus and pressure I exert on the operators to make sure the rail reliability is brought about because that is my priority. And I’ll see to it that it happens, whether or not it’s included in the fare formula.”
Insisting that public transport fares and reliability are two separate matters, Khaw suggested that including a reliability component to the fare formula in a bid to penalise operators not performing up to standard could worsen the situation:
“When a system is very unreliable, in fact that is the time to pump in more resources … and if you punish them through reduced fares, you are withdrawing resources from the operators and you’ll be doing exactly the opposite. The wrong thing. Rail reliability is important but deal with it separately.”
Khaw added that it is impossible to improve the public transport system without pumping in more resources that will go towards recruiting manpower needs. He appealed:
“All those things come with money and I really hope Singaporeans understand that I want to do my job well so that we can have a first-class transport system and we will get there.
“But I do need money because it is not realistic to hope that you get a first-class, reliable train with no need of any injection of resources.”
Besides, Khaw said, the Network Capacity Factor (NCF) – a new inclusion in the fare formula – will indirectly address service standards. The NCF assigns a positive or negative rating depending on whether the rail network can cope with the commuter crowd. If the network is not expanded and demand grows, the NCF will be negative. The NCF can be positive if rides are more comfortable even if costs rise. Khaw said:
“Service levels may not be picked up directly through the fare formula but the sentiments will be picked up by me very quickly, because engineer Lee Bee Wah will make sure that I fully understood what is happening on the ground. And I’m very attentive, of course not just to Yishun but the whole Singapore.”
Netizens responding to Khaw’s speech derided his comments, opining that commuters should not be penalised for poor service: