So the Public Transport Council (PTC) is now doing their annual review of the fare structure for public transport. The outcome is almost a given. Already the Minister is alluding to an imminent increase by saying that Senior Citizens and the not so well-off will not be impacted by any increase. So yes. An increase is on the cards.
We are not privy to the review process but it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that the process goes something like this: The public transport operators first submit a proposal for a fare increase. The PTC will consider the merits and justifications and will come out with a quantum having considered other extenuating factors such as operating cost et cetera.
But must it always be like this? Can the transport duopoly for once propose a zero increase or even a reduction in fares? For the past year, fuel cost which forms a chunk of operating cost has fallen sharply and is not expected to return to its giddy heights simply because of the increase in shale oil production from North America. And the transport companies have just announced a healthy profit which size-for-size is much better than SIA’s. In short, the transport companies do not have any financial justifications to increase the fares.
In past fare increases, the transport companies would almost always cite fuel cost as a reason to increase the fares. Now that fuel cost has decreased, the same logic should apply. Fares should correspondingly decrease.
We say to the transport companies; surprise us. Show your good faith in being public transport operators that provide public service and not mere profit-oriented corporations. And do remember that you are actually contracted to run a system that is handed to you using tax-payers money; a system that is given to you on a cheap. So you are not like any other corporations. You also have the social responsibility to provide affordable and efficient transport service.
At the end of the day, it is not about how little the increase will be. It is about principle. If the fare was increased because of an increase in operating cost, then it should decrease when the cost dipped.
So we say again; surprise us.