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Old May 2nd, 2004, 11:52 PM   #41
huaiwei
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Income's car co-op plans overseas tie-up

By Ho Ka Wei

CAR sharing is getting so popular that NTUC Income , which runs the largest car co-operative here, is shifting gears to drive the idea farther to places like Malaysia and Hong Kong within a year.

Income's chief executive Tan Kin Lian told The Straits Times yesterday that the Car Co-op is working with partners, and that the idea may be realised 'within a year'.

As a measure of its popularity, the subsidiary of NTUC Income has more than 4,000 members now, up from the 50 it started with in 1997.

In the first quarter of this year alone, 500 new members joined, compared with 200 in the same period last year.

Since 1997, the co-operative has also gone from having four cars and one pick-up point to 131 vehicles at 40 areas.

It plans to expand further by the end of the year - to 6,000 members, 160 cars and more than 50 pick-up locations.

With this growing interest in car sharing, said Mr Tan, it will mean that more cars - even premium ones - will be added to the co-operative's fleet.

For example, it added an Alfa Romeo 146 yesterday to its stable, which includes Mitsubishi, Toyota and Nissan sedans.

Car Co-op is one of five such outfits here. The others are CitySpeed, part of ComfortDelGro Corp, Honda Diracc, WhizzCar and Hertz.

Car Co-op general manager Lewis Chen said a trial to allow cross-sharing of cars with the latter two firms has started. This means another 46 cars could potentially be used by Income's members.

At the co-operative's first family day yesterday, which included a car rally to heritage spots in Singapore, Mr Tan, 55, told The Straits Times: 'People with small cars may also want to join, just to drive an Alfa or try other cars for the fun of it.

'If I were 30 years younger, I would want to rent a car like that and drive my girlfriend around.'

The chance to drive different cars is certainly a strong selling point for Mr Koh Choon Nguan, 50, and his family, who are all members of the scheme.

He and his wife, property agent June Sim, 49, scrapped their Hyundai last year and might not buy a replacement.

Joining the co-op means the family can sample different makes, he said, as well as avoid squabbles over who gets to use the family car.
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Old May 3rd, 2004, 12:01 AM   #42
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READING ON THE JOB:

I was at Outram Park MRT station on April 22 at about 6.30pm to take the train to Tampines. As the train pulled into the station, I saw the driver had a book sitting snugly on the steering wheel. I had a good view of his cabin as I was at the front end of the platform.

It is all very well if nothing untoward happens. But can someone driving a train and reading a book at the same time spot potential hazards? And if he can, will he react in time to avert disaster?

CHRISTINA TIANG (MS)

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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old May 6th, 2004, 04:30 AM   #43
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Train, bus fares unlikely to rise this year

TRAIN and bus fares are unlikely to go up this year.

SMRT Corporation, which runs the North-South and East-West MRT lines as well as Tibs buses, said yesterday that it will not apply to the Public Transport Council for a change.

Neither will SBS Transit, which runs SBS Transit buses and the North-East MRT Line.

It had said in March that it would not do so.

SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa said the company's revenue declined in the last financial year.

This was because of Sars, absorbing the goods and services tax (GST), the impact of the North-East Line and an overall increase in operating costs.

'However, we're mindful the economy is only starting to mend and commuters are still facing hardship,' she said.

She added that SMRT, which did not ask for any fare increase last year, will continue to absorb the one percentage point increase in GST made last year and again this year.

On Wednesday, the company reported a 24.2 per cent rise in net profit to $89.5 million, despite turnover dipping 2.7 per cent to $667.3 million.

However, commuters will eventually have to help share the cost of upcoming security measures for buses and trains with transport operators.

Traditionally, the approval of the Public Transport Council, for requests to raise fares, is based on an operator's performance in the previous year, not on projected increases in costs.
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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old May 6th, 2004, 05:54 AM   #44
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I hope they don't raise the price next year too.....
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Old May 6th, 2004, 06:28 AM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babystan03
I hope they don't raise the price next year too.....
This year's promise usually means they have an excuse next year. We can only hope for the best....
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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old May 6th, 2004, 06:35 AM   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huaiwei
This year's promise usually means they have an excuse next year. We can only hope for the best....
Actually sekali....after three months they'll raise it.....haha.....

Woah and the response from "the others" are "enormous"....haha....
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Old May 6th, 2004, 06:54 AM   #47
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Three months? Why three?
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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old May 6th, 2004, 07:01 AM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huaiwei
Three months? Why three?
Just came out of my mind....nothing statistical about it.....
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Old May 6th, 2004, 08:08 AM   #49
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$10m a year 'thrown away'

MAY 6, 2004

That's what commuters waste in unclaimed refunds and underused cards, among other things

By Christopher Tan

PUBLIC transport commuters 'throw away' about $10 million each year in unused fares.

This is mainly in unclaimed refunds from the now defunct magnetic farecard, underused student concession cards, unreturned single-trip tickets, and lost cards.

SMRT Corp reported last week that its income in the past financial year had been boosted by unused fares amounting to nearly $10 million.

At SBS Transit, unused fares average $2.5 million a year.

In all, since 2000, the sums to both operators total about $40 million.

On top of that, The Straits Times understands, farecard company TransitLink is sitting on $10 million more in unclaimed refunds. The company, a joint venture between the two operators, was unable to comment.

Short of ringing a bell on every street corner, the operators have put in place refund avenues. For instance, TransitLink's website said refunds for magnetic farecards - now replaced by contactless ez-link cards - will be given at 10 designated ticket offices until the end of next month.

From July 1, refunds can be claimed only at the TransitLink head office at Buona Vista MRT station.

Refunds can be made on cards within four years from the day they were bought or last topped up.

The magnetic card was phased out by the end of 2002.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) reckons more can be done.

'The present system of getting a refund is very cumbersome and many consumers do not have the time,' said Case president Yeo Guat Kwang.

'It may also be costly as consumers have to incur transport costs travelling to designated locations to get the refund.'

He suggested using post offices and banks as well.

Most commuters interviewed said they were either not aware of refund policies, or the amounts left on their cards were too small for them to bother.

Ms Ivy Ong, 38, a fashion merchandiser, said it is just 'laziness' that she hasn't claimed a refund.

'Maybe I should go look for them. I think I have a few lying around,' she said, expressing surprise that so much money was waiting to be claimed.

Marketing executive Quek Kar Lian, 27, was not aware she can get a refund.

'Anyway, my balances are negligible. Who knows? One day, I may be able to sell them as collectibles,' she said.

Mr Francis Tan, 43, who teaches in a private school, said he and his wife have three magnetic cards with a total balance of between $6 and $7.

'We'll keep them as souvenirs,' he said. 'It's a hassle to queue up for refunds. It requires time, effort and money.'

He is prepared to let the operators keep the money, unless the refund can be sent by post.

Civil servant Yip Pei Shang, 26, has 10 farecards. 'I used two of them regularly and maybe each still has $5 or so left. The rest are commemorative cards, with $2 on each.

'I'd go for refunds if the balance was high, like more than $10, and if it was convenient to do so. As it is, the amount is small to me and I don't mind it going to the transport companies so they can have better profits and maybe improve services.'

If the refunds are not claimed by 2006, the money will be booked into the operators' bottom line as unused fares.

Transport companies said income from other forms of unused fares is largely an accounting phenomenon.

A spokesman for SMRT Corp said: 'It's really accounting treatment. Most of it is from 'unused' trips in concession passes, which are actually subsidised by full-paying commuters.'

For instance, student concession passes - fixed-price cards that are topped up each month - allow for unlimited bus rides and a maximum of four train rides a day.

If the holder makes only two train trips a day, the other two are recognised as unused fares because the money was technically for four rides a day, the spokesman explained.

A secondary school student pays $27.50 a month for a bus concession pass, $25 for a train pass and $52.50 for a bus/train pass.

'Commuters will decide for themselves whether it is worthwhile to buy concession passes,' said the SMRT spokesman. 'Obviously, if they make fewer than two trips a day, they won't.'

Still, observers and users wonder if there can be a card which accumulates unused trips for later use.

Said polytechnic student Jasper Tan, 19, who buys a monthly $97 bus/train pass for tertiary students: 'There are days when I travel a lot and I think they compensate for my lighter days. But for days when I don't travel at all, I feel they should let me roll over my credit.'

MP Chay Wai Chuen, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said: 'Perhaps we should find ways and means to link up to another stored value card so the unused fares are not wasted.'

Meanwhile, Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said one way to encourage people to turn in their farecards is to set up charity bins at train stations.

He said: 'As the total amount is large, one way would be for the Government to pass legislation to say that any amount unclaimed should be donated to charity.'


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
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Old May 6th, 2004, 01:30 PM   #50
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10 million really isn't much. it's $2.50 per person which is quite... conceivable.
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Old May 6th, 2004, 03:21 PM   #51
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Cracy nut. They should be donated to charity!
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Old May 7th, 2004, 06:12 AM   #52
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Mercedes Benz showcases green bus for cleaner environment

Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 06 May 2004 2033 hrs


By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia


SINGAPORE : Automaker Mercedes Benz has brought into Singapore a 'green' bus that runs on environmentally friendly gas instead of diesel.

The green bus looks like any other bus except that instead of a fuel tank, the bus has gas cylinders on its roof, weighing over 200 kilogrammes.

It meets very strict European emission standards, which will be implemented in Singapore from October 2006.

Singapore is introducing these strict standards to cut down on fine particulate emissions - from diesel buses and taxis.

Ahead of that, Mercedes Benz is showcasing its newest model to authorities and bus operators.

Although the bus is cleaner, it is also more expensive. The green bus is about $120,000 more expensive than a diesel bus. Operating costs are generally also about 30 percent higher.

The public can catch a joy ride along Orchard Road on Saturday from 11am to 3pm from Hyatt Hotel. - CNA
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Old May 8th, 2004, 04:22 PM   #53
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I think this is the bus with a door that has a little thing folding out and touching the road side so that wheelchairs can be wheeled in easily?
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"My Settlement of Singapore continues to thrive most wonderfully - it is all and everything I could wish and, if no untimely fate awaits it, promises to become the Emporium and the pride of the East" - Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 10th September 1820
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Old May 8th, 2004, 04:49 PM   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huaiwei
I think this is the bus with a door that has a little thing folding out and touching the road side so that wheelchairs can be wheeled in easily?
Yes that's the one.....
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Old May 10th, 2004, 12:27 PM   #55
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Is there ever a 'right' time for price hikes?

The New Paper - 10 May 2004

By Azhar Ghani

RISING costs might put pressure on prices but when should the buck be passed to consumers?

There's never a good time for price hikes. But, going by past lessons, timing is everything.

Take the controversy over the 2002 transport-fare hike.

It was implemented while Singaporeans were still reeling from the country's worst recession since independence.

And it sparked a fiery parliamentary debate when East Coast GRC MP Tan Soo Khoon tabled a motion calling for a review of the hike.

Almost 20 MPs had supported his call, taking turns to hit out at the bad timing and big profits of public-transport companies.

But a U-turn from the Public Transport Council (PTC) was averted after Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Tan Boon Wan turned the motion around with his suggestion to drop the call for a review.

This was followed by an amendment proposed by Ayer Rajah MP Tan Cheng Bock, who called for the PTC to consider the 'state of the economy' and 'employment situation' in future fare reviews.

A few days after the debate, Mr Tan Soo Khoon noted in a press interview that the final version of the motion had reflected the sentiment among MPs, much of which revolved around the issue of timing.

BETTER TIMES

When costs can no longer be absorbed, would better times provide an opportunity for prices to be gradually raised?

It might, going by the explanation given for 2002's hike in certain public hospital fees.

Mr Lim Hng Kiang, the Health Minister then, had said at the time: 'Our philosophy is - better to have small fee increases on a regular basis than bunch it up and have a big one once every few years.

'... For the review earlier this year, we decided to hold it over because we're just in the recovery phase of the recession. Now that the economy is on a reasonably firm basis, we've let the clusters and hospitals continue with their regular adjustments.'

Speaking to The New Paper On Sunday recently, Consumer Association of Singapore (Case) president Yeo Guat Kwang offered this observation: When times are good, consumers' tolerance levels will increase.

Said the Aljunied GRC MP, who's also a director with the National Trade Union Congress: 'A pick-up in the economy, if accompanied by wage increases, will make it easier for people to accept price increases.'

The Singapore economy is expected to breeze past the official 3.5 to 5.5 per cent growth forecast for the year.


And, although the Manpower Ministry's preliminary estimates for the unemployment rate in this year's first quarter showed that it remained at 4.5 per cent, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had, in his May Day message, said that 'unemployment is likely to come down'.

Two weeks ago, the Monetary Authority of Singapore also said that workers' wages are expected to grow between 2 and 4 per cent this year.

Rising wages can lead to rising costs, if not accompanied by producitivity gains.

So what items on consumers' spending list are now facing cost pressures?

Already mentioned are impending hikes in property tax for HDB home-owners, and university fees. (See report on facing page.)

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chong Weng Chiew told The New Paper On Sunday: 'It doesn't mean that costs are reviewed just because things are getting better.

'There has to be constant reviews in order to reflect market realities, even if these involve subsidised goods and services.

'The HDB valuation is a long overdue revision that's part of its regular review.


'And I wouldn't call it a hike. It's a revision of the valuation, so the tax could have gone up or down.'

On why it's doing a review only now, after 14 years, Iras had said that it had held back 'in view of the difficult economic conditions in recent years'.

NOT EASY TO HOLD BACK

Holding back won't be easy generally for most goods and services providers.

Economists Suan Teck Kin of OCBC Bank and Song Seng Woon of brokerage G K Goh pointed to the upward pressure on prices of commodities like oil, raw materials for the chemical and construction industries, and newsprint for the publishing industry.

Mr Song said: 'Unless something drastic happens to the world economy, factors suggest that these costs will move up in the light of global demand. If they continue to firm up, the costs have to be passed on to consumers.

'So, even though the labour market still looks a bit fragile, I expect prices in general to move up.'

But, for this year at least, public transport fares will stay put.

The Public Transport Council's May deadline for operators to apply for fare revisions has lapsed quietly.

Rising oil prices haven't been enough to drive operators SMRT Corporation and SBS Transit to move for revisions.

Neither has talk that provisions for increased security may be necessary, in the light of the Madrid railway terrorist attack.

Case's Mr Yeo said: 'I don't think security arrangements should be borne totally by commuters.

'It's a national security issue. And there're also no other compelling reasons for public transport companies to raise fares.

'Several measures have helped them cut costs, like the 3-percentage-point cut in CPF contributions, which reduces a substantial chunk of their wage costs.

'The Government has also helped them lower costs through tax measures.'

POLITICAL COSTS

But, when hikes have to take place, the decision-makers would take into account all factors, including the political costs, added Dr Chong.

He didn't specifically say this, but Singapore is on the cusp of only its second leadership change, with Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong taking over from Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong before the year is out.

Singaporeans' unhappiness over impending bus fare hikes had been blamed as one of the factors which accounted for the ruling People's Action Party's defeat in the 1981 Anson by-election.

Dr Chong said: 'The decision-makers will fied, but also if the ground will take them well.

'We not only know whether the changes are justidon't implement changes mechanically, looking at dollars and cents alone.

'Painful changes aren't implemented as a single event. There are always accompanying measures to cushion the impact.'

Agreeing, Mr Yeo added that even when price hikes happen, Singaporeans shouldn't feel the squeeze.

Putting on his NTUC hat, he pointed to how the trusty familiar NTUC retail outlets patronised heavily by HDB heartlanders - supermarket FairPrice, Unity pharmacies and Foodfare food courts - have done their part to cushion the impact of unemployment, cuts in wages and CPF cuts for Singaporeans affected by slowdowns in the economy.

Mr Yeo said: 'Singapore is fortunate in that we've got the NTUC co-operatives well-established and poised to help workers out in bad times.

'These co-operatives help to moderate the cost of living by keeping prices of essential goods and services low.'

An example of how painful changes are handled with care was the GST hike from 3 per cent to 5 per cent announced in 2002, when the Government rolled out a $4.1 billion relief package.

age - to the tune of $17.6 NTUC also chipped in with its own pack To top it all, the hike - a critical cornermillion.

stone of the new tax regime - was made in two 1-percentage point increases over two years, instead of kicking in fully on January 2003 as originally planned.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RECENT MOVES


Property tax for HDB home-owners
The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) will be revising the annual value of Housing Board flats - for the first time in 14 years since 1990 - between July and December this year.

This will double the number of home-owners - an extra 400,000 - who have to pay property tax. Eventually, it will put an extra $40 million every year in the taxman's coffers, after the three-year exercise is fully phased in by 2007.

Why: Iras, which reviews the annual values of private property yearly, said it had held back in the case of HDB flats because of 'difficult economic conditions'.

Iras is now revising the annual values to bring them in line with market conditions.


University fee hike
During the Budget debate in March, Acting Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced the Government's plans to reduce its 75 per cent subsidy for undergraduate courses.

This will result in higher tuition fees.

Why: Mr Tharman highlighted that graduates - who are likely to earn more - enjoy course subsidies that are twice those of their peers in polytechnics or the Institute of Technical Education.

He indicated that it was 'neither desirable nor feasible' for university education's share of the budget to crowd out spending on other students.

Copyright © 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Old May 10th, 2004, 01:17 PM   #56
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Hey! The new red and white colours on the new SMRT buses look so weird....
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Old May 10th, 2004, 01:23 PM   #57
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smrt bus? got pics?
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Old May 10th, 2004, 01:25 PM   #58
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hmmm doesnt look too bad but might cause confusion with sbs! looks so similar to their old colour scheme.. boring colour anyhow


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Old May 10th, 2004, 01:26 PM   #59
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They should change the interior colours too... otherwise it just looks uber weird...
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Old May 10th, 2004, 01:27 PM   #60
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wait a minute... how come they reverted back to their old logo!
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