Budget 2013: Improving transportation capacity and fares

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced earlier this week that congestion and waiting times – one of Singaporeans’ most pressing daily problems – will be tackled head-on in the 2013 budget.

 

Coupled with Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew’s announcement a couple of weeks ago of the Fare Review Committee’s recommendations to keep bus and train fares affordable and extend fare concessions, it seems the government is taking a strong stand on maintaining the quality and the affordability of our public transportation.

 

Measures include:

 

– ramping up bus capacity, especially feeder services, to improve frequency

– adding new bus routes to decongestion overcrowded buses.

– accelerating the rollout of an additional 800 buses.

– tendering out routes to private operators to multiply the service offer.

– expanding the rail network by more than 50% by 2021.

– advancing operations on parts of the new Downtown Line.

– adding new trains to existing lines from next year.

– enhancing incentives for commuters who travel during the “shoulder” periods (before and after the morning peak hour).

 

This is particularly timely in light of the recent spates of MRT train breakdowns, which have left commuters frustrated (see our latest Facebook poll).

 

Once regarded as a world class transport network, public confidence in the reliability of Singapore’s train system has been waning, with some expressing resignation to the frequent disruptions and delays.

 

In fact, some have even made comparisons to the train systems in Taipei and Hong Kong to conclude that Singapore is falling short in delivering quality service to its passengers.

 

Pitting one transportation model against another is not necessarily the most accurate measure – after all, how can different developmental phases, passenger volume, or lengths of network be compared? – but there definitely exists room for improvements in terms of meeting a commuter’s basic needs of getting from point A to point B.

 

As echoed by a guest commenter on REACH, “reliability is just as important as affordability in our public transportation network”.

 

Particularly in a country where the cost of car ownership remains high and a significant portion of the population relies on trains and buses to go about their daily activities; these modes of transport need to be able to operate at an optimum capacity, increased frequency and minimal downtime.

 

Without a doubt, Singapore’s public transport has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings to the developed network it is today, working to keep the city connected.

 

But the important thing to remember is that these stumbling blocks serve as reminders to constantly strive for improvements to better the country’s transport system.

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Najib A.

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