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TODAY20: Circle Line fare anomalies? (Aug 13, 2010)

Over the past two decades, TODAY has played an active role in public discourse in Singapore. To mark our 20th anniversary this month, we are re-publishing 20 of our most impactful news articles over the years.

Following the introduction of distance-based fares in July 2010, some commuters taking the MRT had observed what they saw were anomalies on the Circle Line and the North East Line.

Following the introduction of distance-based fares in July 2010, some commuters taking the MRT had observed what they saw were anomalies on the Circle Line and the North East Line.

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Over the past two decades, TODAY has played an active role in public discourse in Singapore. To mark our 20th anniversary this month, we are re-publishing 20 of our most impactful news articles over the years.

WHAT HAPPENED 

  • Following the introduction of distance-based fares in July 2010, some commuters taking the MRT had observed what they saw were anomalies on the Circle Line and the North East Line

  • In response to TODAY’s queries, the Public Transport Council (PTC) revealed that travelling time — and not just distance — is also used to charge train commuters under the distance-based fares system

WHAT NEXT

  • PTC and the Land Transport Authority explained that under distance fares, fares are calculated based on the distance of the route that the bus or train takes to get to a destination.

  • However, for certain MRT train trips, it is not possible to determine a commuter’s actual route of travel on the rail network since he does not tap in or out for a switch between lines

  • The general principle is for rail fares to be set according to the distance of the fastest route between the origin and destination stations, rather than any other alternatives

  • When the authorities made the change to distance fares, they had retained the fare-setting principle for rail travel

 

SINGAPORE — It is a fare conundrum that has caused some train commuters to wonder if they are being overcharged: Why are Circle Line fares not based on distance travelled?

For instance, the Circle Line fare from Bishan to Paya Lebar is S$1.45, which is the cost of travelling via the longer North-South Line and East-West Line. Measured on government website onemap.sg, the distance via the Circle Line is about 7.4km, which should cost S$1.40.

Other commuters have noticed similar anomalies on the North East Line. The fare from Kembangan to Chinatown, for instance, is based on the 11.9km travelled from Kembangan to Outram Park on the East-West line, then onward to Chinatown. But commuter H J Tan, 38, said it should be based on the shorter 11km Kembangan-City Hall-Dhoby Ghaut-Chinatown route.

Responding to Mediacorp’s queries, the Public Transport Council (PTC) revealed yesterday that travelling time — and not just distance — is also used to charge train commuters under Singapore’s distance-based fares system.

“The general fare-setting principle for MRT lines is to charge for the distance travelled based on the fastest route,” a council spokesman said. “This takes into account the walking and waiting time required if a switch to another rail line is involved.”

So, the North East Line anomaly is because the fare is based on the “fastest travel route via a transfer at Outram Park”, which requires a single transfer compared to the shorter route, which requires two transfers.

The Circle Line situation is more complex: Basing fares on North-South-East-West rates results in some commuters paying more, but “the majority of affected customers paying lower fare”, said PTC.

Bishan and Paya Lebar stations are interchange stations, and how fares are set between these two stations affect any travel along this stretch.

When travelling from Ang Mo Kio to Aljunied, for instance, the fastest route is via a transfer at City Hall. In this case, the North-South-East-West fares are also cheaper. But PTC did not give the estimated proportion of commuters who benefit from lower fares.

Commuter Mr Tan wondered, though, if the current system is “rather arbitrary since transfer times fluctuate”.

PTC said it would continue to “harmonise fares” as new rail lines are opened.

A first step could be to have uniform fares across all rail lines, suggested Dr Lim Wee Kiak, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport. Currently, North East Line and Circle Line fares are higher than for the North-South-East-West lines.

Dr Lim has filed a question for Parliament’s session on Monday on whether any study has been done to see if two-thirds of commuters benefit from distance-based fares, which kicked in on July 3. “It seems there are a lot more people complaining about their fares going up,” he said.

But he believes a distance-based system is equitable. “The issue is how you execute it,” he said.

Related topics

TODAYonline public transport mrt fares

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