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Fares comparison: 4 Chinese cities, no Kuala Lumpur & Bangkok?

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By: Leong Sze Hian

Train fares among the lowest in Asia

I refer to the article “Train fares in Singapore among the lowest in Asia: Public Transport Council” (, Dec 5).

It states that “Train fares in Singapore are among the lowest compared to other major cities around the world, a survey has revealed.

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6th cheapest of 36 cities

For a 10km rail journey, commuters pay S$1.33, the 6th cheapest in a comparison of 36 cities across Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

Only Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen in China and Taipei in Taiwan have lower fares than Singapore for a train trip of the same distance.”

No Kuala Lumpur & Bangkok?

Strangely, our neighbouring Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok were not among the 35 major cities.

How much cheaper are these compared to Singapore?

4 Chinese cities out of 8 Asian cities?

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credit: ST

Perhaps even stranger – why have four cities in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen) out of the eight cities in Asia?

“Besides comparing fares for a 10km train trip, the study also looked at the lowest rail fare in the 36 cities.

4th lowest of 36 cities

Singapore’s lowest train fare is S$0.77, placing it 4th among the 36 cities. Only Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Taipei have a lower minimum fare.

“Within Asia, the rail fares in Singapore are amongst the lowest, while rail fares in cities like Tokyo and Seoul lie on the higher end of the spectrum in Asia.”

Compared to cities in Australia, Europe and North America, rail fares in Singapore are considerably lower

He added: “When compared to cities in Australia, Europe and North America, rail fares in Singapore are considerably lower.”

With the exception of Taipei, fare levels for the cities were converted to Singapore dollars based on each city’s purchasing power parity (PPP).This accounts for any differences in the strength of currency and cost of living across the region.

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credit: ST

The PTC’s blog post comes ahead of an overall fare cut of 4.2 per cent for bus and train trips, which will kick in on Dec 30.”

Fares higher than other developed cities?

The rhetoric and argument now and over the years has been that Singapore’s per trip fares are much cheaper than the per trip fares in other developed cities. This may be a flawed argument, because hardly anyone (residents) who uses public transport pays per trip fares, in these cities. They usually use annual, 6-monthly or monthly unlimited passes.

Hong Kong monthly pass from S$60+? 

In Hong Kong, I understand that an adult can pay just HKD360 (S$60) to 565 (S$92) for a monthly pass extra for unlimited travel on designated lines plus a 25% discount on other travel. So, people in Kong Kong can pay as little as S$60 plus, especially for the poor who can try to limit their travel to within the designated lines.

This is as much as about 50% cheaper than Singapore’s monthly unlimited travel pass which cost $120, and arguably cheaper than what an average Singaporean spends on public transport.

Tokyo is 35% more?

In Tokyo, I understand that an adult can pay 80,000 yen (S$974) for a 6 months pass which is $162 monthly – 35% more than Singapore’s.

New York is 18% more?

Another example is New York which has a 30-day pass for US$112 (S$141 a month).

So, New York is about 18% than Singapore.

Most expensive London is 74% higher? 

Even the most expensive annual pass that I could find – London is S$209 a month (annual pass 1,216 pounds (S$2,506)).

This puts London at about 74% more expensive than Singapore.

40 to 3% cheaper after adjusting for PPP?

However, after adjusting for PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) using the same PPP in the FRMC report (2013), the cost for monthly passes in Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo, becomes S$72 plus, S$116 and S$100 respectively.

This makes them about 40, 3 and 17% cheaper than Singapore’s S$120.

Only London is 35% more expensive at S$162.

1 of the most expensive monthly pass in the world?

So, does this mean that we have one of the most expensive monthly pass (PPP adjusted) in the world?

Sweden is as much as 58 to 30% cheaper?

Now that I have analysed the 4 cities cited in the FRMC report (2013) on a PPP adjusted basis, let me move on to some other cities without PPP (because I only have the PPP used in the FRMC report (2013) for the above 4 cities)

An annual pass in Stockholm cost as little as SEK4,990 (S$954 or S$80 a month) for people below 20 or over the age of 65. Other adults pay SEK8,300 (S$1,586 or S$132 monthly).

So, Stockholm is about 58 to 30% cheaper than Singapore.

I also understand that it may even be cheaper or free in the smaller towns in Sweden.

Finland is 58% cheaper?

In Finland, an adult pass in Helsinki for 30 days is only 45.9 Euro (S$79), which is 58% cheaper than Singapore’s.

(Note: the above is based on an analysis I did in November 2013)

“The PTC said it would publish the full report of the fare benchmark study on its website by Dec 31.”

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