SINGAPORE: The Public Transport Council (PTC) will review rules for fares incurred by commuters when they exit train stations to transfer from one line to another.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for the Downtown Line 3 (DTL3) on Friday (Oct 20), Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said that commuters are charged a second time when they make such transfers. But as the MRT network becomes denser, it may inconvenience commuters to do so.
"In some instances, commuters may save time by exiting one station, walking over to another station, and transferring to another line," he said.
However, "our fare structure currently does not provide for such transfers" except at three stations at Bukit Panjang, Newton and Tampines, he added.
With the completion of the DTL, Mr Khaw said the PTC will review distance-based fare transfer rules to ensure fast and seamless public transport journeys.
"I am sure PTC will examine the issue thoroughly, to ensure fairness to commuters and taxpayers," said Mr Khaw.
In a statement, PTC said that the current policy was based on the "travelling profile" of commuters.
"The majority of commuters take buses for short, first- and last-mile trips, and only one train trip (transferring between different rail lines at interchange stations where required) per journey," it said.
However it noted that with the expansion of the rail network, "the stations on different lines are situated closer to one another", and that commuters can choose to "re-enter the rail network" by exiting from one station and walking to another.
"PTC is reviewing the transfer rules in recognition that such transfers can potentially be more efficient and shorten one’s commute," it added.
This will be a separate review from the 2017 fare exercise, the council added, and said it hoped to complete the review by the first quarter of 2018.
Friday saw the launch of the final stage of the Downtown Line at Expo station, following an open house last Sunday.
At 21km, the DTL3 is the longest stretch of the line. DTL1 with six stations from Chinatown to Bugis opened on Dec 22, 2013, and DTL2 with 12 stations from Bukit Panjang to Rochor opened on Dec 27, 2015.
Over the last six years, Singapore has expanded its rail network "significantly", said Mr Khaw, with the addition of new stations to the North-South Line and the Circle Line, the opening of the Tuas West Extension and the launch of DTL1 and DTL2.
"In total, we added 41 new stations and grew the rail network length by 30 per cent," said the minister, adding that this came to a total cost of nearly S$21 billion.
He added that when the ongoing resignalling upgrade for the North-South and East-West Lines is finished, the "shortest headway between trains" will be reduced by about 20 per cent.
"This will allow us to add up to six more train trips every hour during peak periods," said Mr Khaw. "To do this, we have bought 57 new trains. Most of these new trains are already here.
"Commuters will enjoy shorter wait times and less crowded trains."
DTL3 ONE OF THE "BIGGEST ENGINEERING CHALLENGES"
Mr Khaw said the new line would be a "game-changer" for residents in the east, giving the example of a Bedok Reservoir resident working in the Clarke Quay area who will find his journey shortened from 60 minutes to 35 minutes.
The construction of DTL3 was also one of the "biggest engineering challenges" in Singapore, he added.
LTA engineers had to "tease out narrow corridors" around existing buildings and introduce new diversion techniques. As an example, Mr Khaw said that parts of the Singapore River were moved and rerouted to build the tunnels around the new Fort Canning station.