Monday, February 27, 2012

Public Transport: We have been done in

S$1.1b spent on buses to include addressing operational cost issu...
The government's plans to spend S$1.1 billion on increasing bus capacity is not just for buying buses, but also address operational cost issues.


Richard Kong, who is a second year student at Nanyang Technological University, asked whether the S$1.1 billion spent on the purchasing of buses will result in an increase in transport fare over the next few years."

Mr Iswaran replied: "We're increasing the bus fleet by 20 per cent - ask yourself, do you think our ridership will go up by 20 per cent? If our ridership doesn't go up by 20 per cent, what it means is the buses would be less utilised, and there's a financial challenge there.

"When you buy a bus, the cost is not just buying the bus. It is also about operating. If you have 800 buses, you need at least 1,600 more drivers. And probably you need more because you need to plan for medical and other kinds of friction. If you want to bring in 1,600 to 2,000 more drivers, there's going to be other costs associated with it as well. So part of this funding is also designed to address some of the operating cost implications over the next 10 years.

"So it's not just about money to buy buses. It's also about how to address some of the operating cost issues over the next 10 years. The primary focus here is to ensure that by doing this, we're able to get a much higher quality of bus service for all Singaporeans. That is the objective of the exercise."

We are screwed. We helped pay for the buses then now we will soon pay for the higher running cost. We pay for everything extra. That's easy isn't it? If we don't pay, who pays? It can get very complicated but in the end the buck stops with us.

But we also pay the shareholders of the listed transport entities. What have they contributed to deserve the dividends? Have they helped us saved more than the profits that is going to them? Of course not. How could it be when management was maximizing annual returns but we are paying the long term consequences?

Privatization was a mistake the government isn't willing to admit. We should either nationalize it or lease it to the private sector. Whatever, we should own it so that we have control and the lease to tug on to get the behavior and services we want.

I am not complaining that we will have to pay more. I am only asking the government to explain how all these is value for money. As it is, it has made more sense for me 9 out of 10 to drive than use public transport, i.e., the fares are too high adjusted for time and quality. Anecdotally something is not right here.

Now we can expect in time to have the most expensive transport systems in the world regardless public or private. The government will have to bump up private transport or at this rate public transport will become more expensive than the more comfortable, convenient and even prestigious alternative. The first step in this direction is COEs inflating in a hurry. The government is always in a hurry. So when you see something changing quickly in this society, I bet you can trace it back to them.

There is one more train of thought I want to record but I am running out of time: the work culture of these transport firms. I am worried that the only trick the government know is to bump up pay. They need to work on their culture or we are paying for their under performance.

Closer to 2016, I shall refer to this and many other posts to help me decide who I should support. This line has the keywords since I am not willing to spend more than the minimum time to blog. Tagging is too time consuming.


  1. What to do? They have already decided on it. Any debate is useless. We can only 'bend over and pick up the soap'. Whatever we say is just noise. But just you wait till 2016.

  2. It is always a woner to me that most of commuting habits seems to be one way, towards city in the mornings and the reverse route in the evenings. Route allocation and distribution of work/school locations is not planned properly, resulting in bunching of commuters. Transport minsters and city planners shd be made to pay back their ill gotten 1st world salary.

  3. The govt is doing this because it may well be party responsible for the situation for instance by demanding that the mass transit companies pay major share holders like Temasek and GIC high annual dividends.

    That may well be the reason for the phenomenon/irony that despite making hugh annual profits, the PTC has without fail approved virtually annual increases in bus/train fares.

    It completely militates against logic that while the companies are making huge handsome annual profits it is justified and entitled in the view of the PTC to increase fare. And without fail the rational has been to maintain/replace the train/bus fleet. Would you believe that these super smart wizards had not been taking into account maintenance, replacement and operation costs?