13th December 2012, 09:59 PM
This month some party suay.....
13th December 2012, 10:45 PM
Re: This month some party suay.....
Public Transport Fares – More than just Fare Hikes and Bus Drivers’ Salaries
by Lui Tuck Yew on Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 2:18pm ·
Public transport fares affect most Singaporeans daily. So quite understandably, people focused on what I said last week (6 Dec) on how a fare increase would allow the two transport operators to increase salaries of bus drivers.
But what received less notice was my statement that when the fare review committee submits its report next year, we would be better able to see the relationship between any fare adjustment, wage increases, and what government support needs to be given to the groups most affected by any fare increase. Let me share some thoughts and set the debate in this wider perspective.
I am heartened that many agree that the terms for bus drivers should be improved. But we need to go well beyond the one-time increase earlier this year which raised salaries by up to a few hundred dollars a month. We will need a concerted and sustained effort to upgrade the bus driving profession and recruit enough new drivers and retain existing ones, in order to ramp up bus capacity over the next few years. Locals currently make up slightly more than half (57%) of our 7,500 bus drivers, a sharp decline from almost 80% just 6 years ago. Most local drivers are already in their 50s and 60s. Clearly we should continue to welcome foreign bus drivers within limits. But we also need to attract more locals to take up bus driving if we do not want to rely overly on foreigners. To do this, employment terms and conditions need to be improved further.
Let me be clear. The purpose of fare increases is not to boost the short term profits of PTOs. It is also not just to improve salaries of bus drivers but to improve service to commuters while keeping public transport operations commercially viable. This is why we must work with the PTOs to ensure that when granted any fare increase, they would re-invest part of this revenue to improve the PT system to benefit commuters. This can be in“hardware”, like more buses and trains and upgrading the signalling systems. It can be in “software”, like better terms and salaries for staff. That includes bus drivers and train operators, as well as the maintenance and service personnel who work tirelessly day and night to deliver a safe and reliable public transport service.
And as fares increase, the Government will have to play a larger role to keep our public transport system affordable. We have already invested heavily by providing major infrastructure and capital funding especially for the rail network. In addition, earlier this year, we announced the $1.1bn Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP). We are starting to see some results from the BSEP, with new bus routes rolled out and additional buses deployed to relieve crowding.
The further improvements we are thinking of, such as even more improved service levels,which will require amongst others more bus drivers and higher salaries, are costly. They come on top of various costs increases to the operators, such as rising energy costs. Somebody has to pay for these costs, either commuters in fares, or taxpayers in government subsidies, or the PTOs. The proper balance is something we have to study very carefully. But we should not simply take the populist approach of avoiding any fare increases completely, and just push it onto the PTOs or rely on more and more government subsidies. Not only would this require additional public money, but it would give operators no incentive to be efficient, or to provide good services to commuters.
I want to emphasize that we are fully committed to an affordable public transport system, for the middle-income groups, the lower-income groups, the disabled community, and other vulnerable groups. I am keen for the PTC to consider what more can be done for such groups as part of the next fare adjustment, as part of their overall recommendations.
When the fare review committee headed by Mr Richard Magnus completes its work early next year, we can put all these pieces together and we will certainly have a fuller debate in Parliament. The bottom line is this: this is not just a matter of raising fares to pay bus drivers higher salaries. It is a matter of all the stakeholders – the PTOs, the Government, and yes, commuters too – coming together to ensure we enjoy a reliable, high-quality and affordable public transport system.
13th December 2012, 10:58 PM
Re: This month some party suay.....
many a Beach Party also derailed due to weather