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TODAY20: Dataset error led to wrong charges, says LTA (July 16, 2010)

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

TODAY20: Dataset error led to wrong charges, says LTA (July 16, 2010)

Following up on a tip-off from a reader in 2010, TODAY found out that bus commuters travelling along a stretch at Buona Vista may have been overcharged for their rides over a period of six days

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

WHAT HAPPENED

  • Following up on a tip-off from a reader, TODAY found out that bus commuters travelling along a stretch at Buona Vista may have been overcharged for their rides over a period of six days
  • Seven bus services plying between two bus stops along North Buona Vista Road and Commonwealth Avenue were affected
  • The “dataset error” occurred because the extra distance from an earlier temporary route diversion was not reversed after the diversion was over

WHAT NEXT

  • The error was rectified by the authorities, who provided refunds to affected commuters
  • They also worked with the bus operators to confirm that there were no similar errors elsewhere

 

SINGAPORE — If not for an alert TODAY reader, bus commuters travelling along a stretch at Buona Vista may well still be overcharged for their rides. And the question now is if the error he uncovered is happening elsewhere.

Mr Dennis Puk Leung Kong had spotted that the distance in opposite directions between two bus stops on North Buona Vista Road and Commonwealth Avenue differed on the public transport fare calculator website. On the eve of distance-based fares kicking in, he wrote in to highlight the “inconsistency”.

MediaCorp posed the question to the authorities on July 6 and, yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) confirmed there was indeed an error. The distance between the bus stops opposite Block 43, Commonwealth Avenue, and opposite Buona Vista MRT Station should be 0.3km, and not 0.6km as originally computed.

The error has been rectified, said an LTA spokesman. “This was due to a dataset error, where the additional distance from an earlier temporary local route diversion was not reversed after the diversion was over,” she said.

The number of commuters affected by this error is “likely to be small”, she said, without giving an estimate. The LTA is now working with public transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT to confirm that there are no similar errors elsewhere.

The spokesman added that commuters affected between July 3 — when distance-based fares kicked in — and July 9 can make their claims via Transitlink’s website (www.transitlink.com.sg), at its ticket offices or can call its hotline at 1800 225 5663. The bus services plying the two stops are 74, 91, 95, 191, 196, 198 and 200. All are SBS services.

Commuters at Buona Vista last night were forgiving of the error. “The area has been under construction for some time, so it can be quite messy,” said undergraduate Ooi Shan Chin, 21. He will not be checking if he is eligible for any refund, as “it’s too tedious for a few cents”.

Another commuter, programmer Mr Kim, 39, said the error was acceptable as long as the authorities allowed for claims, and added that he would check.

MediaCorp was unable to reach Mr Puk by press time last night but, in his initial email, the National University of Singapore systems engineer noted that the “crux of distance fares lies in the distance dataset used to calculate the fares”.

He added: “If the accuracy of the dataset is questionable, commuters may find themselves incorrectly charged... Multiply this across a number of stops travelled and one could be unknowingly overpaying for distance not travelled.”

Adult Ez-link bus fares for air-con services increase by 1 to 10 cents between the different distance bands.

LTA said it is “carefully looking out for such teething issues” in the initial phase of the new fare system, and would be doing “immediate rectification whenever necessary”.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused,” said its spokesman.

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