More to get vouchers as transport fare hike kicks in
Commuters who took the bus or train on Boxing Day may not have noticed that their fares had gone up by a few cents as a public transport fare hike announced last month kicked in yesterday.
But for Madam Hashimah Hassan, every cent goes a long way.
The 54-year-old is a full-time caregiver to her brother, who has cerebral palsy, and her 83-year-old mother, who is wheelchair-bound.
Having to pay more for fares will impact her finances as she receives only about $430 each month from social assistance programmes.
Depending on distance travelled, the cost of bus and MRT trips yesterday rose by 3 to 4 cents for adults paying their fares by card.
Concessionary fares for seniors, students, people with disabilities and low-wage workers went up by one cent, while prices for cash fares, single-trip tickets, monthly concessions and travel passes were unchanged.
Of the 10 commuters The Straits Times spoke with, five realised that fares had gone up only when interviewed by this reporter, while three said the increase was negligible as it would amount to a few dollars each month.
A total of 600,000 public transport vouchers, which can be used to top up fare cards or buy monthly concession passes, have been set aside to help lower-income commuters cope with the latest fare hike.
This is the largest number of public transport vouchers issued to date.
The Public Transport Council (PTC) decided to raise fares by 2.2 per cent after its annual fare revision exercise this year, citing cost pressures on public transport operators and a sharp plunge in ridership due to Covid-19.
The hike was largely the result of a fare increase that was carried over from last year.
Public transport fares were frozen that year.
When fares were last raised in 2019, a total of 450,000 vouchers worth $50 each were made available.
To benefit more commuters this year, the income ceiling was raised this year so that more households would qualify for a public transport voucher.
Those with a monthly household income of $1,600 or less per person will be eligible for the voucher distribution exercise, compared with the $1,200 income ceiling that was set in 2019. This means about 250,000 more households will be eligible for the vouchers this time, the Ministry of Transport said.
This year, the public transport vouchers will be given out in three phases.
In the first phase, households that received public transport vouchers in 2019 will automatically receive a notification letter by the end of the year that will allow them to redeem the vouchers.
In the second phase, which will start early next year, households that meet the income criterion but did not receive a voucher in the first stage can apply for it online.
Finally, households that meet the income criterion but prefer to apply in person, as well as households that need further assistance, can go to their local community centres or community clubs to make their applications.
All public transport vouchers must be redeemed by March 31, 2023.