Sunday, May 04, 2008

Are Singaporeans Taking Public or Private Transport?

The Singapore government encourages more to travel using the public transport like buses or trains in a bid to ease traffic flow and better air environment.

A series of measures, like increasing ERP charges and installing more ERP gantries at various "strategic" locations, have been implemented to discourage owning a car. To encourage more to take public transport, LTA has come up with a masterplan to make travelling easier. Higher frequencies of buses and trains between intervals especially during peak hours are ordered by the LTA to transport operators.

Question comes down to "Are Singaporeans taking public or private transport?" Now, all transport operators are privatised and the big players like SMRT, SBS Transit and Comfort DelGro, are all listed on the stock market. They will need to answer to shareholders and ensure y-o-y profit are improving, if not maintained.

How many times have we read, seen or heard of complaints from commuters because of overcrowded trains or buses, or filthy buses? How many minutes have been wasted because of long waits for buses or trains? How often do you read of passengers complaining on taxi drivers "hiding" from the streets but suddenly reappear out of nowhere with a "On Call" sign?

Despite higher oil prices, SMRT still managed to report higher net profit of S$149.9M, up 10.4%. So, is their past arguments on a need to up transport fares justifiable? Also, are the public consulted prior to an increase in on-board rate for cabs? The taxi operators simply proceeded with their increase without listening to both the cab drivers and passengers. Profit is number ONE.

Let's admit the fact that we, Singaporeans, no longer are taking public transport. We are taking PRIVATE transport. I will not be surprised should transport operators submit another round of fee hike proposal and get it approved year in year out. It's time to introduce and bring in big and new players so no single operator can "monopolise" the market. When I says big, I really mean big if not their influence to the market is of little if not negligible insignificance. Remember how the other smaller taxi operators have no choice but to follow big boy Comfort DelGro up in fare prices?

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