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Off-peak perks likely to ease rail crowds, say experts

Published on: 31-Oct-2017


Changi Airport's newest terminal - T4 - started its first day of operations early Tuesday (Oct 31) morning, marking a critical milestone in Singapore's aviation history.

Airport operations went off without a hitch, with passengers for the first flight out to Hong Kong streaming in as early as 4am to the departure hall to use the self-check-in facilities. Airport staff were on hand to guide them through the process.

The first arriving and departing flights at T4 were operated by Cathay Pacific - CX659 from Hong Kong arrived at 5.40am and CX650 departed Singapore for Hong Kong at 6.50am.

Nurse Minee Moh, 29, was at the airport around 5am to check in for her flight to Hong Kong for a five-day holiday.

"The check-in and baggage-drop experience was very good and very smooth. Other airports and T1 have the self-check-in system. It saves time, and I'm very honoured to be on the first flight out," she said.

Mr C.S. Tan, an IT professional in his 40s, and his family, who were heading to Hong Kong for a week-long holiday, were impressed by the airport facilities and self-check-in services."Everything is automated and very intuitive. We didn't know we were the first passengers, but it's nice," said Mr Tan.

"Everything is automated and very intuitive. We didn't know we were the first passengers, but it's nice," said Mr Tan.

His wife, Madam Angela Tan, also an IT professional in her 40s, said of the immigration clearance and security systems: "It's definitely higher security, but it wasn't a hassle. The full-body scanning machines are quite cool, like you're in a Mission Impossible movie."

Meanwhile, passengers arriving from Hong Kong on CX659 were greeted at the arrival gate by airport staff with orchids and goodie bags. At the baggage collection area, they were entertained by an instrumental quartet, and also treated to coffee and breakfast.

Giving subsidies to commuters travelling throughout the MRT network during the morning off-peak period is likely to be an effective move to ease peak-hour crowds, said experts.

The Public Transport Council announced yesterday that commuters who tap in before 7.45am at any train station on weekdays from Dec 29 will receive a discount of up to 50 cents on their fares.

Transport experts say this is an improvement on the existing scheme, which gives free rides to those who tap out before 7.45am at 18 MRT stations in the city area.

Associate Professor Michael Li, a transport economist at Nanyang Technological University, said: "This is the right move. By giving the off-peak incentive, it should encourage people to move towards that time bracket.

"Commuters definitely would respond. If 5 per cent of commuters make the shift, I think it would be a success."

He added, however, that the Government would need to do a trial and error of the discount quantum to reach a price point that is most attractive for commuters to distribute the load more evenly.

Singapore University of Social Sciences economist Walter Theseira agreed that the new scheme would ease peak-hour congestion.

He added that it had a better chance of getting people to travel earlier than the existing free pre-peak period initiative.

"Previously, people had to tap out before 7.45am to get free travel, so it benefits those who already travel very early anyway. Now, by shifting 7.45am to the time people tap in, it is more targeted at those who travel around 8am to 9am, which is when there is a spike in commuters."

He added: "It is now also nationwide rather than just the city area, including congested stations such as Jurong East. There are many travelling to work in commercial areas outside the city, so this will impact them too."

Commuters interviewed had mixed views on whether such a move would make them change their travel patterns.

Ms Nadia Rosli, 24, a project manager at a food manufacturing company, said she would not wake up 30 minutes earlier for a 50-cent reduction. "Maybe I would do it once a week but definitely not every day," she said.

"I would also rather have fast, efficient trains that don't break down as much even if it meant paying slightly higher fares," she added.

Mr Eugene Tay, 42, an executive officer, said: "I tap in at 6.45am, so I will get the discount but it's not a big deal. I would prefer that the trains are more frequent and on time."

Ms Deanna Lim, 23, a lifestyle blog intern, said she would consider travelling earlier for the discount.

"If I get to work an hour or so earlier, I can go to the gym and have breakfast before work. I wake up early anyway, so it isn't such an issue for me," she said.




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