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Overall transport fare to increase by 4.3 per cent

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Card fare hike capped at one cent for seniors and students, lower-income families to get $9m worth of vouchers

Bus and train commuters will pay six cents more each trip when the latest fare increase kicks in on Dec 29.

The fare increase for student and senior citizen card holders as well as low-wage workers and people with disabilities will be capped at one cent.

Single-trip train fares and adult cash bus fares - paid by about 2 per cent of commuters - will rise by 10 cents.

Cash bus fares for students, senior citizens and people with disabilities will be unchanged.

The Public Transport Council (PTC) said at a press briefing yesterday that the changes amounted to an overall 4.3 per cent hike - the maximum allowable fare adjustment quantum for this year's fare review exercise.

The adjustment will increase fare revenue by about $78.2 million for public transport operators next year.

Rail operators will get $35 million, with $10.9 million going to SBS Transit and $24.1 million to SMRT.

The remaining $43.2 million will go towards reducing bus operating subsidies.

This year's adjustment also takes into account a new component - Network Capacity Factor - which tracks how much bus and rail capacity has changed in relation to actual usage. It accounted for 3 per cent of the 4.3 per cent increase, the biggest value out of the five components, which include changes in core inflation, energy cost and wages.

The increase is also due to higher cost pressures faced by rail operators SBS Transit and SMRT.

SBS Transit said its rail operations have been facing "significant cost pressures" since 2013 as a result of the Downtown Line, along with a rise in manpower costs.

SMRT faced rising operating costs, with repair and maintenance costs increasing by more than 87 per cent from FY2015 to FY2018.

The PTC said that both operators have "incurred significant losses". Describing the decision to raise fares as "not easy", PTC chairman Richard Magnus said: "We had to balance between rising costs in public transport and fare affordability on the part of our commuters."

He said the council took into account some considerations and gathered feedback from 10,400 people, and it derived that 70 per cent of commuters found public transport fares affordable.

Mr Magnus noted that fares had fallen by a total of 8.3 per cent between 2015 and 2017.

He also said the increase in revenue would not offset the $1 billion annual bus subsidy that the Government expects to pay for the next five years.

To help lower-income families cope with the fare hike, the Government will be giving out 300,000 $30 public transport vouchers at a cost of up to $9 million to be drawn from the Public Transport Fund. It will be the largest amount of transport vouchers given out to date.

SBS Transit and SMRT will also be required to contribute 5 per cent of their expected increase in fare revenue - amounting to $0.55 million and $1.2 million respectively - to the fund.

Commuter Michael Lai, 25, said that while the hike was expected, he would still feel its impact as he uses public transport several times daily. The post-graduate student added: "Given the rise in water and energy prices in July, I think having the fare hike at the end of year is reasonably spaced out."

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said: "It is never a good time to raise prices for an essential service.

"But we have to think about what our (public transport) system does. When cost changes, we apply it to the fares. Without regular adjustments, the increase will be worse.

"Eventually, the system will encounter a financial crisis, and all of a sudden, the fare increase will be too great to bear."

Transport