Do night bus fare hikes require approval?

The following letter is published at The Straits Times forum.

I REFER to the recent increase in fares for all seven of SMRT’s special late night bus services (“Pay more for SMRT’s late night bus services”; Feb 8).

Why is it that this increase does not need approval from the Public Transport Council?

SMRT attributed the fare increase to “an inflationary and higher operating cost environment, which includes higher energy prices”. However, shouldn’t it take into account its $162.9 million net profit for the financial year 2010.

Moreover, SMRT’s after-tax profits grew by 187 per cent, from $56.8 million to $162.9 million, from financial year 2002 to financial year 2010.

As to the “higher operating cost environment”, in contrast, SMRT’s total operating expenses grew much slower, by 77 per cent, from $418.5 million to $741 million for the same period.

Finally, its latest third-quarter profits ended Dec 31 last year were even higher than that in the fourth quarter of financial year 2010, increasing by 89 per cent, from $22.7 million to $43 million, and total operating expenses (which include inflation and higher energy prices) also fell by 5 per cent, from $206.6 million to $196.3 million.

So where is the justification for this huge fare increase now?