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Free pre-peak travel to be extended till June 2015

Free pre-peak travel on the rail network will be extended by one year to June 23, 2015.

SINGAPORE: Free pre-peak travel on the rail network will be extended by one year to June 23, 2015.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said about seven per cent of commuters have shifted out of the morning peak period since the introduction of the free pre-peak travel in June last year.

To help more commuters shift to off-peak travel, LTA will intensify efforts to encourage more organisations to implement flexi-work arrangements and other measures to support employees who may wish to travel during off-peak periods.

Free travel is available on the MRT for all commuters who tap out before 7.45am at 18 MRT stations in the city on weekdays.

The scheme has helped reduce crowds during the morning rush hour.

Before the scheme, for every 10 commuters travelling during the pre-peak hour, there were 27 commuters on the peak hour.

After the scheme was introduced, for the same 10 commuters, there are now 21 commuters on the peak hour.

More attention will now be on companies to do their part.

To help commuters shift to off peak travel, the LTA will intensify efforts to encourage more organisations to adopt flexible work arrangements. More details will be announced later in July this year.

"Sometimes it's the way companies’ services are delivered. Also, it has got to do with their customers’ expectations. Sometimes, it just boils down to manning levels,” said Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Josephine Teo.

“So, (it is) very specific to individual employers. The right way to do it is to support them individually, not try to do a one-size-fits-all (and) see how we can tailor the measures that are useful and relevant to individual companies."

Looking ahead, the price tag for the extension of the scheme will be around S$12 million.

"I think it's appropriate this is dealt with on a year by year basis,” said Janil Puthucheary, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee (Transport).

“As our MRT system is upgraded and expanded, it may not be necessary if we have sufficient capacity in the future, and that will be my hope.

“We do always need to be prudent with the public financing on this, but if we take a big picture look compared to the amount of cost in terms of extending the capacity of the MRT system, the cost of this scheme is actually relatively low compared to the cost of the expansion and upgrading of the MRT system. So, I think it's money well spent."

Another initiative aimed at reducing peak-hour crowds is the Travel Smart scheme.

It already has 12 companies committed to implementing flexi-work options, and the government plans to review the scheme "holistically".

"My estimate is that about 15 per cent of our employees have taken advantage of this Travel Smart programme,” said Max Loh, country manager of Ernst & Young.

“We do see our people turning up earlier… I think it's a journey to get more people to be in this programme."

All in all, some commuters say they are willing to try to change their travel behaviour.

"Habits are a bit difficult to change. If the company changes the working hours… we can consider," said Ang Lee Lee, a train commuter.

Reini Oktoria, another train commuter, added: "If we can reach office earlier, start working earlier, and then leave office earlier, that would be great. We can spend more time with the family as well."

However, others are still unconvinced.

"The difference between what it costs and being free is not that much,” said commuter James Rout.

“So, maybe if it's more expensive to travel at peak times, if the differential is higher, it might persuade me, but at the moment I don't think I will be persuaded."

Other commuters like Nurruddeen Al Mustaqeem said they did not “see the need to travel at a specific timing to travel for free” because they already have concession passes.

To date, eight in 10 public agencies, including those located outside the city area, offer their officers the flexibility to start work early.

The Land Transport Authority says capacity during the pre-peak period remains adequate.

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