Transport fares: S’pore cheaper than other cities?


Singapore’s train fare is amongst the lowest in 36 cities across Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

I refer to the article “Cheaper off-peak bus, train fares may become permanent” (Straits Times, Oct 19).

It states that “The Off-Peak Pass scheme, which was introduced in 2015, sees an average of 13,000 off-peak passes sold each month. The pass, at $80 a month, allows adult commuters to enjoy unlimited rides on buses and trains during off-peak hours on weekdays and all day on weekends and public holidays.”

Hong Kong monthly pass from S$64? 

In Hong Kong, I understand that an adult can pay just HKD370 (S$64) to 580 (S$101) for a monthly pass extra for unlimited travel on designated lines plus a 25% discount on other travel. So, people in Kong Kong can pay as little as S$64, especially for the poor who can try to limit their travel to within the designated lines.

This is about 20% cheaper than Singapore’s monthly off-peak unlimited travel pass which cost $80, and 47% cheaper than our monthly unlimited travel pass which cost $120, and arguably cheaper than what an average Singaporean spends on public transport.

As to “Citing a Singapore University of Social Sciences study, which compared Singapore’s transport fares with those of 35 other cities worldwide, Mr Magnus said rail fares here are among the lowest in Asia, and are “considerably lower” than those of cities in Australia, Europe and North America” –

6th cheapest of 36 cities

according to the cited study – “for a 10 km rail journey, commuters pay S$1.33, the 6th cheapest in a comparison of 36 cities across Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

Only Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen in China and Taipei in Taiwan have lower fares than Singapore for a train trip of the same distance.”

No Kuala Lumpur & Bangkok?

Strangely, our neighbouring Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok were not among the 35 major cities.

How much cheaper are these compared to Singapore?

4 Chinese cities out of 8 Asian cities?

Perhaps even stranger – why have four cities in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen) out of the eight cities in Asia?

“Besides comparing fares for a 10km train trip, the study also looked at the lowest rail fare in the 36 cities.

4th lowest of 36 cities

Singapore’s lowest train fare is S$0.77, placing it 4th among the 36 cities. Only Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Taipei have a lower minimum fare.

“Within Asia, the rail fares in Singapore are amongst the lowest, while rail fares in cities like Tokyo and Seoul lie on the higher end of the spectrum in Asia.”

Compared to cities in Australia, Europe and North America, rail fares in Singapore are considerably lower

“When compared to cities in Australia, Europe and North America, rail fares in Singapore are considerably lower.”

With the exception of Taipei, fare levels for the cities were converted to Singapore dollars based on each city’s purchasing power parity (PPP).This accounts for any differences in the strength of currency and cost of living across the region.”

Fares higher than other developed cities?

The rhetoric and argument now and over the years has been that Singapore’s per trip fares are much cheaper than the per trip fares in other developed cities. This may be a flawed argument, because hardly anyone (residents) who uses public transport pays per trip fares, in these cities. They usually use annual, 6-monthly or monthly unlimited travel or limited travel passes.

36 to 3% cheaper after adjusting for PPP?

After adjusting for PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) using the same PPP in the FRMC report (2013), the cost for monthly passes in Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo, becomes S$77, S$116 and S$100 respectively.

This makes them about 36, 3 and 17% cheaper than Singapore’s S$120.

Only London is 35% more expensive at S$162.

1 of the most expensive monthly passes in the world?

So, does this mean that we have one of the most expensive monthly passes (PPP adjusted) in the world?

Now that I have analysed the 4 cities cited in the FRMC report (2013) on a PPP adjusted basis, let me move on to another city in Europe without PPP (because I only have the PPP used in the FRMC report (2013) for the above 4 cities)

Finland is 34% cheaper?

In Finland, an adult pass in Helsinki for 30 days is only 45.9 Euro (S$79), which is 34% cheaper than Singapore’s.

(Note: the above is based on an analysis I did in November 2013. It is difficult for me to update my analysis, as I only managed to find the PPP figures in the 2013 FRMC report as a benchmark for reference)

Leong Sze Hian




About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.