The public argued that the public transport operators are already making big profits for their shareholders, paying high salaries for their chief executives (as reported in their annual reports) and are operating in an near monopolistic situation with little competition in their respective market segments.
They also complained about the crowded buses and trains, unreliable service, poor level of customer service (due to insufficient or poorly trained workers) and over-charging of fares (due to system fault).
I echo the views of the public and wish to ask the Public Transport Council to delay any fare increase until the public transport operators can provide more capacity and improve the standard of service, namely to provide a more comfortable ride with shorter waiting and travelling time.
I also ask the public transport operators to consider their responsibility to the public and keep the fares at a reasonable level. The operators should try to reduce their operating costs, especially in the high salaries paid to top managers, and reduce other expenses, for example in the adoption of expensive systems, that do not directly improve the quality of service provided to commuters.
I recognise the duty of the public transport operators to provide a return on investment to shareholders, but wish to point out that the return should be fair and not excessive, and should not be at the expense of the commuting public, especially those at the low income levels who have no choice but to take public transport.
If the Public Transport Council agrees to increase the fares, to offset the uncontrollable increase in operating costs, I ask the Council to request that more concessions be given to senior citizens, low income families and students to offset the increases.
I also ask the Minister of Transport and the Land Transport Authority to take urgent steps to revamp the public transport system in Singapore by increasing the capacity and encouraging more effective competition among the public transport operators.
This can be achieved by allowing more private bus operators to run express bus services between the towns to increase competition and provide more choice to commuters. The express bus services should be supplemented by efficient feeder services. We can study the popular and successful system adopted in Hong Kong, where small light buses are used to ferry commuters between the homes and the bus and train stations. We should be open to change our system and adapt the successful models from overseas to suit our own circumstances
I have published my proposals on the improvement of the public transport system over the past two years. I have also written to the Transport Minister on these proposals. I urge the Minister for Transport and the Land Transport Authority to give urgent consideration to these proposals.