SINGAPORE: Stiffer penalties will be imposed on public transport operators if they don’t meet Quality of Service (QoS) standards for basic bus services from April.
The Public Transport Council (PTC) said on Monday that it will raise the penalty quantum significantly to a range of between $2,000 per day per bus service and $100,000 per month per standard.
Currently, it ranges between $100 per day per bus service and $10,000 per month per standard.
The PTC said it wants to send the message that it takes a serious view of lapses, and expects public bus operators to keep service lapses to the minimum.
In the last assessment period from November 2011 to May 2012, SMRT was fined $100 for an overcrowded bus service.
But under the new framework, it will be fined $2,000.
Fines for failing to meet service availability standards are more onerous.
For example, currently operators can be fined $10,000 for failing to meet bus frequency standards.
But from April, this will jump 10 times to draw a fine of $100,000.
PTC chairman Gerard Ee said that though operators have shown improvement in their service levels, penalties must continue to be relevant and meaningful.
And with more resources, which comes with the $1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme by the government, the higher penalty quantum is a reflection of the expectation for operators to deliver even better service.
"We will continue to monitor the roll—out of the BSEP and make adjustments to the framework at the opportune time," said Mr Ee.
PTC secretary Eugene Tan said that in determining higher penalties, the council recognises the impact a service lapse can have on commuters.
He said: "In determining the new QoS financial quantum, the PTC has taken into consideration the distributed nature of the basic bus network, that consists of about 260 bus services today compared to the train network which consists of four MRT lines.
"Given that the impact of a train incident generally affects much more commuters than that of a bus, a non—compliance for one bus service should not garner a penalty as significant as a non—compliance on a single MRT line.
"Nevertheless, the impact on the individual commuter can be quite significant since buses generally operate at lower frequencies of around 10 to 15 minutes, unlike the MRT.
"We take this into account. The PTC has decided that the financial penalty needs to be set sufficiently high to provide the economic incentive for the operators to adhere to the standards rather than to pay the penalty."
Associate Professor Lee Der Horng from NUS Department of Engineering said the move is to make public transport a reliable choice mode for commuters.
"Previously the penalty was at the low side and now with this kind of very significant and very substantial increase of penalties, I hope this will provide a sufficient reminder to the operators to pay much more attention to improving the service," he said.
"I think this is also the right timing...we have seen in the past few weeks, I think the policy now is very clear — to have public transportation as the number one (choice) and should also be the best choice to our commuters. Before we can achieve that stage, it is necessary to get our service providers to provide best service to our passengers for them to consider."
Observers say there is also a need to introduce more bus priority measures to help service levels improve.
The results of the new penalty quantum will be reflected in the six—month assessment period from December 2012 to May 2013.
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