Parliament: All bus services in the red because of Covid-19, only 11 profitable before, says Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE – Only 11 bus services, or three per cent of all bus services here, were able to generate enough fare revenue to cover their operating costs before the Covid-19 pandemic, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (Sept 4).

But with commuter numbers plunging owing to the impact of Covid-19, all 356 bus services are in the red as of July.

Mr Ong, who was responding to a question in Parliament by Mr Dennis Tan (Hougang), added: “Prior to Covid-19, and as a result of better frequencies and service standards, 345 out of 356 public bus services generate fare revenues that cannot cover their operating costs and require government subsidies.

“This amounts to a total of about $1 billion per year.”

Train and bus ridership had fallen by around 75 per cent during the circuit breaker period from April to June. But even after the gradual lifting of circuit breaker measures, ridership currently still remains at about 60 per cent of the levels compared to before Covid-19.

The Public Transport Council (PTC) said on Friday that public transport operators have been significantly affected by this fall in ridership, especially since they had continued to run trains and buses largely at frequencies before the pandemic.

It said that with the further fall in revenues for public transport operators, it expects Government subsidies to be even higher this year.

Prior to the pandemic, the Government had been expecting to spend close to $1 billion to renew and upgrade rail operating assets, and another $1 billion to subsidise public bus services annually over the next five years. This translates to more than $1 in subsidies for every journey taken.

On the issue of subsidies, the Transport Ministry said it will continue to monitor the financial impact of the pandemic on public transport as the situation evolves.

It added that it will continue to look into ways to take into account potential changes to ridership trends and travel patterns as a result of Covid-19, while ensuring that commuters can continue to travel safely and smoothly.

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