Photo of Khaw Boon Wan from Yahoo

Newly-nationalised public transport operator SMRT has just posted its first loss since inception. In a press release, SMRT published in it’s annual operations review report that the state-owned company saw a S$86 million loss due to a rise in operating expenses.

The state-owned company also complained about falling ridership and fare prices, and signalled that fare prices will increase.

“This was due to lower average fares arising from a fare reduction exercise, as well as a 2 per cent drop in total ridership on SMRT’s network, from 768 million to 753 million… More than half of every dollar collected from commuter fare revenue now goes to rail maintenance-related expenditure. “This refers to rail maintenance staff costs, parts and material costs, depreciation of rail assets and other rail maintenance-related operating expenses.”

State media Straits Times immediately contacted PAP-linked academic “transport economist” Thesiera Walter who commented that fare prices will need to increase:

“The issue with a public transport company is that the firm can’t really raise revenue except by asking for fare increases. Ridership isn’t something they can affect directly. So I expect that if this loss continues, we may need government subsidies to keep the system operational.”

SMRT however posted fake news about the state of rail reliability by using the government’s skewed rail reliability indicator, Mean Kilometres Between Failures (MKBF). The Singapore duopoly train operator said the trains on East-West Lines have travelled 13% longer on average before encountering a delay of more than five minutes. The Circle Line was alleged to have “doubled” it’s MKBF in the past year.

The government’s MKBF however does not account for the amount of down-time, with the severity of a 8-hour breakdown similar to that of a half-hour breakdown. SMRT also deliberately broke up the MKBF indicator into various train lines, to isolate the worse-performing lines like the Bukit Panjang LRT from the better-performing train lines. According to SMRT in a previous financial report, train breakdowns resulting from signal-related problems are not counted as they are “project-related” disruptions. The train lines today also saw shorter operating hours, with Sunday shutdowns and occasional stop service. There is also no measurement on the company’s response during a train breakdown incident, with many commuters reporting negatively on paid train replacement bus services. The Singapore authorities also do not publicly publish it’s calculations of the MKBF, and the public has to blindly rely on government-released figures.