Thursday, June 02, 2005

You Win Some, You Lose Some

1. SMRT has received the Public Transport Council (PTC)'s approved fare revisions and would need to study the impact on our commuters. Based on our preliminary assessment, there are no fare increases for children and students. We are also glad that PTC has accepted SMRT's proposal for higher fare increases for standard-ticket users. The standard-ticket increases will cushion the impact on Singaporeans who are frequent users and Ez-link cardholders.

2. We are supportive of PTC's move to apply the new fare formula, which is more transparent, objective and better presents the social and economic conditions faced by commuters and operators. It also takes into account SMRT's productivity efforts. The approved fare increase is less than the increases in CPI and WI, and moreover, SMRT's productivity gains have been shared with commuters.

3. With the modest fare increase, fares still remain affordable for Singaporeans, and amongst the lowest in the world. Nevertheless, SMRT is sympathetic towards the needy. To meet the needs of the low-income group, SMRT will contribute S$1million to the Public Transport Fund, which is being driven by NTUC and the CDCs.

4. SMRT would like to assure commuters that we will continue to pursue system and service improvements to deliver a high level of service, safety, efficiency and reliability. In addition, we will continue to improve cost efficiency and productivity efforts. These savings will help mitigate some of the increases in the CPI and WI components of future fare adjustments.

The above press statement issued by SMRT Corp and SBS Transit claimed that the companies have withheld from requesting fare increases in recent years because of the economic downturn (the last increase in 2002 caused a humongous hue and cry from the populace). They continued by adding that rising fuel prices and operating costs have made it difficult to continue holding off the increase.

CASE (Consumer's Association of Singapore) responded by stating that it was not the right time for fare increases, as the salaries of lower income workers have not gone up. CASE also mentioned that the fare hikes are not justified, as SMRT Corp had made a record net profit of $126.9 million in the financial year ending 31 March 2004. SBS Transit posted a $49 million profit last year.

SMRT went ahead with the price increase anyway, and sugar coated it by setting up a $4 million fund to offset the impact of the price hike for the financially destitute. This is not dissimilar to the casino decision making strategy which was to go ahead with the building of the gambling den inspite of the widespread objection on moral grounds, and then temper it with the proposed set up of treatment centers for gambling addiction.

This is the same SMRT who claimed lack of funds to supply safety barriers at the station platforms despite the alarming incidents of commuters falling to their deaths on the train tracks. Maybe they will come up with discount vouchers for funeral expenses.