SINGAPORE: Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said the government is prepared to significantly increase incentives to encourage travellers to shift their travel to off—peak periods.
It is also seriously considering the suggestion raised by Member of Parliament Janil Puthucheary to allow commuters to travel free on public transport before the peak hours.
Mr Lui said if about 10 to 15 per cent of commuters in the peak period travel up to an hour earlier, there’ll be a very ’perceptible improvement’ in the daily travel experience of commuters who are getting to work.
"For example, at Raffles Place station, the large majority of commuters travelling to the station every morning make their exit during the 8:30 to 9:30 window. This very high peak in commuter loading on the train system is something that we should try to spread out, or what we call demand management," he said.
Mr Lui said some considerations include increasing the current 50—cent early travel discount offered by SMRT — to say S$1, or to go all the way to make it free for commuters travelling before a certain cut—off time in the morning.
He noted that the various incentives schemes have had some effect in reducing peak crowding, with the SMRT scheme generating a three to four per cent shift.
Under SMRT’s Early Travel Discount scheme, commuters who enter the SMRT network can enjoy a discount of up to 50 cents if they exit at any of 14 designated city area stations before 7:45am.
He added that shifting travel demand will also help better optimise the public transport capacity before significant improvements to peak hour capacity take place around 2015 to 2016, with more trains added and the first phase of the re—signalling project for the North—South Line completed.
Mr Lui said the plan is not to shift every commuter out of the peak period and allayed concerns that the move will create a new peak earlier in the morning.
Train frequencies outside the peak periods will also be improved so that commuters will not need to wait more than five minutes for the next train.
And during the shoulder peak periods, the aim is to bring down the average waiting time to about three minutes.
Mr Lui said all the improvements will require the train operators to run about 10 per cent more train trips.
Commuters on the North—South and East—West Lines will benefit starting from the second half of this year.
Those on the North—East and Circle Lines will benefit when new trains are delivered from 2015.
Mr Lui said reliability is an even bigger issue for trains because a disruption or service delay affects many more commuters.
A target has been set to reduce the number of faulty trains pulled out of service to about 2.1 per 100,000 train kilometres this year.
Since the commencement of the LTA—SMRT Joint Team in June last year, train withdrawals for the North—South and East—West Lines have dropped to about 2.7 in February this year, compared to 4.5 in the second quarter last year.
Mr Lui said the government is also completing its review of the rail regulatory and penalty frameworks, which will take effect from the second half of this year.
The revised maximum penalty may be pegged to a percentage of the affected MRT line’s total annual fare revenue, to serve as a stronger deterrent against service disruptions and regulatory breaches.
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