SINGAPORE - More fare evaders were nabbed on public transport last year as enforcement efforts by inspectors, bus captains, bus interchange and train station staff were stepped up.
Together, they caught 7,346 fare evasion cases in the last financial year - between April last year and this March - according to the Public Transport Council.
In comparison, 4,038 fare evaders were caught during a nine-month period from July 2008 -when a new penalty regime kicked in - to March last year.
Under the new regime, commuters face a S$20 fine for not paying or under-paying their fare and a S$50 fine for misusing concession cards. Previously, fare evaders paid only the balance of their fare.
When asked about the reasons for the spike, PTC said enforcement efforts were stepped up to deter fare evasion. "This resulted in an increase in the number of penalty fee cases," the Council added.
Between April last year and March, fare evaders caught on buses accounted for nine in 10 cases. Close to six in 10 bus fare evaders underpaid, while almost four in 10 did not pay any fares. Only 2.1 per cent of the bus fare evasion cases were for the misuse of concession card.
Overall, more than eight in 10 fare evaders who were caught in the last financial year paid the penalty fee or composition fine amounts. About one in 10 cases escalated to Court action, said the PTC.
The Council collected S$145,310 in fees and fines during the last financial year, which goes to defray the regulatory costs incurred in policing the penalty fee system.
PTC may use the fees collected to reimburse the Land Transport Authority for their share of administering the regime on PTC's behalf; Transit Link for its services collecting and processing the fees; and operators for their share of fare loss. Last year, 796 appeals were processed, according to PTC.
While more fare evaders may have been caught, analysts MediaCorp spoke to said the financial impact on the transport operators is minimal. They estimated the revenue loss would be around S$16,000 based on a maximum fare of S$2 under the previous fare structure.
PTC said the number of penalty fee cases in proportion to the total number of commuter trips "remain small at 0.0004 per cent".
However, it stressed that fare evasion was "a dishonest act" which "should not be allowed to go unchecked".
Before penalties were introduced, transport operators caught almost 10,000 fare evaders each month. The monthly numbers fell to under 1,000 last year, with fare evasion rates on buses plummeting 94 per cent since the regime was implemented.
With the new distance-based fare system in place, the PTC is also reviewing the penalty fee enforcement regime to determine its relevance and effectiveness as a deterrent.