Outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew have on multiple occasions said that Singaporeans are not willing to pay more for better quality. This may not be a fair statement because MRT and Bus fares have been increasing steadily over the decade. Perhaps over the years, the yearly upward adjustments were only able to cover the increase in operating expenses. But it became inexcusable when CEOs of the two public transport operator start drawing bloated salaries.

In light of the public transport breakdowns, Minister Lui, and more dangerously, the entire PAP Government including the Prime Minister himself, seemed to hint that Singaporeans should bear part of the responsibility for the breakdowns and delays of train services because we were unable to see the larger picture: better quality means higher transport fares.

This is unfair. Why should Singaporeans be the suckers paying for the breakdowns? If the Ministry of Transport can guarantee better train performance (lesser breakdown and higher capacity) by a certain time, most Singaporeans will be able to consider higher transport fares. Just as in the case of a normal transaction, any rational human being would need to know what they are paying for. If we are paying 3 cents more per trip, we ought to know exactly the improved KPIs of our train services.

Photo from Ministry of Transport
Photo from Ministry of Transport

Also it appears the Singapore Government is conflating service quality with service delivery. When a train break down, no service is delivered. Service quality is more into the hardware and overall experience of the train trip, for example, free usb charging station within trains, wifi capability or cushioned seats. Reducing frequency of train breakdown is not service quality, it is failing to meet basic expecatations.

Singaporeans naturally become frustrated with the government’s fare review mechanism (an entirely black box operations without adequate transparency), the Public Transport Council puppet, the unapologetic corporations and the continual degradation of the state of public transport.

I recommend that the next Transport Minister communicate openly with the public on matters regarding the deficiencies of the SMRT system. I also hope that the Minister can be transparent about the amount of fare increase that is necessary to bring down our train breakdown occurrences to the levels in 1990s. Come clean with the numbers and set specific KPIs so that Singaporeans can work hand in hand with our government.

Co-edited by Alex Tan