Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan conceded in Parliament today that the off-peak travel pass scheme for elderly commuters was an utter failure. The scheme, which was launched in 2015 to encourage commuters to travel during off-peak hours, only managed to persuade fewer than 200 pass users to travel outside the morning and evening peak periods.
The Government also revealed that less than 1 per cent of seniors who held concession cards had made use of the off-peak pass scheme, to begin with.
The Minister called the scheme a trial that failed “miserably” and
“The result has been disappointing. When we design public schemes, it must benefit as wide a number of people as possible. After all, you’re spending taxpayers’ money.”
Following the discontinuation of the off peak pass scheme, the Government has launched lower morning pre-peak fares with up to 50 cents discount for those who travel before peak hours. The Government expects that this new scheme will benefit over 300,000 commuters.
As for elderly commuters who may face difficulties after the off-peak pass scheme was scrapped, Khaw offered that parliamentarians can “chip in” from their own pockets to help out:
“When we know a particular resident has been inconvenienced because of this, and despite the various 25 per cent discounts and so on, could not still afford their transport fares, as a local MP we do chip in if I discover such cases.”
He further revealed that more than half of elderly commuters and commuters with disabilities who used the off-peak pass have switched to the monthly concession card, through which they receive a 25 per cent discount on adult fares.
When asked by Workers’ Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Daniel Goh about whether this would mean more seniors would travel during peak hours, Khaw responded noncommittally, saying that while he doubted that they would, “we wouldn’t know until it is done.”
He added: “We will analyse the impact of these various new schemes. It’s just a few weeks in the run and we will see whether we need to refine the schemes as we go along.”
When Goh asked whether seniors could have a choice between purchasing an off-peak pass or an all-day pass, Khaw responded:
“While I encourage making mistakes, when you discover something doesn’t work and you keep on banging your head against the wall, why do you do that? You get a headache.”