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Malaysia launches ‘OKU SMILE’ pass for free transport, starting 1 Feb

Malaysia introduces ‘OKU SMILE’ pass for free transportation for persons with disabilities (PWDs) starting 1 February. In Singapore, PWDs are eligible for a concession card for public transport.

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KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Malaysia is set to introduce an exclusive pass for individuals with disabilities, offering them complimentary transportation services starting from the outset of the upcoming month (1 Feb).

Prasarana Malaysia Berhad (Prasarana), the largest public transportation service operator in the country, announced the launch of the ‘OKU SMILE’ subscription pass in an official statement on 14 January.

The introduction of the ‘OKU SMILE’ subscription pass comes right after the announcement by Malaysian Transport Minister YB Anthony Loke on 21 December 2023, about providing free fare incentives for the OKU community on all rail and bus services managed by Prasarana.

The pass can be activated or applied for starting 15 Jan, and users will have the benefit of free fares from 1 Feb.

‘OKU SMILE’s’ eligibility and application

The pass is available to both current holders of Prasarana’s OKU concession cards and new applicants.

Existing cardholders can subscribe or activate the OKU Smile at any Rapid KL LRT, MRT, Monorail, BRT, and selected bus hub counters starting 15 Jan.

However, cardholders whose cards have expired are required to apply for a new card.

For new applicants, the process involves bringing their identification card and OKU card issued by the Department of Social Welfare (JKM) for verification.

The card issuance process at the counter will take between 10 to 15 minutes, with a nominal fee of RM5 charged for card production

Additionally, Rapid KL and Rapid Kuantan users can also opt for an online application process on their website.

The online application requires uploading copies of the applicant’s identification card, JKM OKU card, and a passport-sized photograph.

Applicants can select their preferred location for card collection and are assured of receiving the card within three working days upon submitting complete documents.

A production fee of RM5 will be charged for the card, which will be credited back to the cardholder’s account for a one-time transaction.

Users must also maintain a minimum balance of RM5 on the card to utilize the pass.

Public Transport Concession Card for Persons with Disabilities in Singapore 

In Singapore, persons with disabilities are eligible for a concession card for public transport.

Holders of the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Concession Card can benefit from a discount of up to 55% on adult fares and are exempt from additional charges for travel distances beyond 7.2km.

They also have the option to purchase monthly concession passes for unlimited travel on trains and basic bus services.

To apply, one must be a Singaporean Citizen or a Permanent Resident and be below 60 years old.

Additionally, applicants for the PWD Concession Card must be certified by a medical practitioner to have a permanent disability, such as a physical disability, visual impairment, hearing impairment, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Intellectual Disability.

In 2022, Minister Israwan rejected WP’s notion of free public transport for seniors and PWDs

In March 2022, Associate Professor Jamus Lim, Workers Party Member of Parliament for Sengkang GRC, suggested that seniors and Persons with Disabilities be given concession cards for free public transport.

However, then-Transport Minister S Iswaran at the time rejected the notion, saying that it may create a “financial burden” on commuters which is “no means insignificant.”

Speaking in Parliament during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate, Mr Iswaran noted that the challenge the Government faces is in striking the “difficult, but essential” balance between quality, affordability and financial sustainability of Singapore’s public transport system over the long term.

He mentioned allocating approximately S$20 million annually in transport vouchers to ease the impact of fare increases, specifically benefiting seniors and persons with disabilities from lower-income households.

“When Assoc Prof Lim suggests making public transport free for seniors and persons with disability, we understand where he is coming from, yet don’t necessarily agree with where he suggests we go,” said Mr Iswaran.

He stated that the Government spends more than S$2 billion annually in subsidies for public transport commuters – about S$1 billion for bus operations, and S$1 billion for train operations.

And on average, it subsidises more than $1 for every journey taken on public transport.

In the discussion, he mentioned that as of January 2022, approximately 975,000 seniors and persons with disabilities possess concession cards.

“The member has estimated that his proposal will cost S$300 million to S$400 million annually, which he has acknowledged has to be paid for by commuters or taxpayers. Using his numbers, for taxpayers, this would mean a 15 to 20 per cent increase to the S$2 billion in subsidies already borne by them,” said Mr Iswaran.

“If borne by commuters, adult fares will have to be increased by around 20 to 25 per cent today, or 30 to 40 cents on average. This is up to 11 times the fare increase last year. This financial burden is by no means insignificant.”

The Minister highlighted that this financial burden could escalate by 2030, with the anticipated rise in the number of individuals with disabilities and seniors aged 60 and above reaching approximately 1.2 million.

During the discussion, Mr Iswaran said that the Public Transport Council (PTC) acknowledged the significance of maintaining affordable fares for vulnerable commuter groups and employed a distinct approach.

“When fares are increased, PTC has apportioned less of the increase to concessionary commuter groups, and more to other adult commuters. But everyone pays a share and those who can pay more do so,” said Mr Iswaran.

“This is a more equitable and sustainable approach, which has served us well over the years.”

Looking ahead, several “converging trends” will affect Singapore’s public transport system over the next decade, he added. These include a growing rail network, shifting work and travel patterns, an ageing population and volatile energy prices.

And amid these changes, it is important to have a “fare formula” for long-term financial sustainability, explained Mr Iswaran.

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