SINGAPORE - Fare increases are not meant to boost the short-term profits of public-transport operators (PTOs), said Transport Ministry Lui Tuck Yew in a Facebook post yesterday.
He said that fare hikes are not just to improve salaries of bus drivers, but also "to improve service to commuters while keeping public-transport operations commercially viable".
Mr Lui said the Government will work with the operators to ensure that when granted any fare increase, they would re-invest part of the revenue to improve the public- transport system to benefit commuters.
This means in "hardware", such as having more buses and trains and upgrading the signalling systems, he said.
He also cited investments in "software", such as better terms and salaries for staff.
He said: "That includes bus drivers and train operators, as well as the maintenance and service personnel who work tirelessly day and night to deliver a safe and reliable public-transport service."
Mr Lui's comments come in the wake of strong reactions from commuters after he said last Thursday that bus fares might go up in future to help improve the wages of bus drivers.
Commuters had suggested instead that pay increases be taken out of the transport operators' profits or be subsidised by the Government.
A team headed by former senior district judge Richard Magnus has been tasked to review the fare formula for public transport.
It is likely to release its findings early next year. Mr Lui explained yesterday that a "concerted and sustained effort" is needed to upgrade the bus-driving profession and to recruit new drivers as well as retain existing ones, especially Singaporean drivers.
He noted that locals currently make up about 57 per cent of some 7,500 bus drivers here, "a sharp decline" from almost 80 per cent six years ago.
Most of these local drivers are already in their 50s and 60s, he added.