So we have another “committee” to come up with yet another “formula” for public transport. What? Don’t we already have a “formula” that the Govt claims has served us well, that they’ve defended in Parliament and in public, over and over again? Didn’t they say that we have a mechanism that incentivises operators and allows them to make a reasonable profit while making public transport affordable and efficient?
Well, the Govt isn’t telling. All we know is that the committee is to
“review” the “effectiveness” of the current fare adjustment formula and propose improvements. The committee will have to ensure that the views of key stakeholders are “adequately represented”. It also has to “balance” keeping public transport fares “affordable” with the “long-term viability” of the public transport operators, while encouraging operators to be “efficient” and “encourage” “productivity improvement”.
Funny, I thought that was what the last committee did, and that was how they sold the current framework to us!
Anyway, I think it’s a fruitless exercise. How can one balance corporate interest vs public interest when one has only a one degree of freedom to play with, namely price?
One can make the pricing formula complicated, with all kinds of rebates and schemes, but ultimately one can’t run away from certain realities.
The reality is that, public transport operators are not here to serve the public, they are here to make money. If they can’t make money, they won’t want to offer the service. Proof of that is the Govt’s recent $1.1b injection to pay for buses and drivers. Because the companies did their sums and realized the returns don’t justify pumping in their own money.
So although the operators are regulated, the Govt really can’t control them where it matters. The Govt can’t make them do national service, it can’t make them operate buses or trains if it doesn’t make money for them, it can’t even control how much their CEO’s should be paid.
Without genuine competition to create truly lower prices, the only thing the committee can do is come up with a “framework” to decide whether foreigners should pay more than locals or senior citizens should pay more than students, etc.
All they’ll be able to come up with is “schemes” to benefit one group of users over another, or “rebates” to encourage long rides vs short rides, or incentives to continue journeys within the same public transport operator, etc.
But the real issues– like whether public transport should be nationalized, whether the market should be dominated by big corporates, etc will never be discussed.
Does anyone smell the old wine in new bottles?