LTA refutes NSP’s criticism of new bus reliability improvement scheme

SINGAPORE — The Bus Service Reliability Framework (BSRF) trial is a first step towards addressing feedback from commuters on bus reliability and regularity, and commuter safety will also be of paramount concern, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The LTA was responding to a statement released by the National Solidarity Party (NSP) yesterday, which pointed out that commuters need more immediate solutions to public transport problems, but schemes such as the BSRF and the S$1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme have time frames of two years and five years respectively.

“The Transport Minister seems to suggest to commuters that the fixes to our current problems in public transport lie only in the future,” said NSP Secretary-General Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss in the statement.

The party questioned whether the fines and rewards given to bus operators under the BSRF would compel public transport operators to pressure their bus drivers to perform in a manner without proper consideration of safety risks for bus passengers and with reduced regard for road safety.

The NSP also questioned why the quantum for rewards is higher than that for penalties.

The BSRF was announced on Monday by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew and is aimed at addressing the problem of two or more buses arriving at the same time, resulting in longer waiting time for other commuters afterwards.

The two-year incentive-and-penalty scheme, which will be piloted next month, will pay public transport operators (PTOs) up to S$6,000 each month for every six seconds they shave off from the historical excess waiting time (EWT) of a bus service. However, for every six seconds a bus service exceeds its EWT, the operators will be penalised up to S$4,000. EWT is the difference between actual and scheduled waiting times for a bus service.

Mrs Chong-Aruldoss pointed out that the Government should not offer further subsidies to PTOs using tax-payers’ money to improve their operations, especially when the PTOs are highly profitable private businesses.

In response, the LTA reiterated the operators will incur costs for additional dedicated resources needed to monitor en-route reliability and regularity of the 22 bus services included in the trial.

The incentives are calibrated so operators can recover the additional costs to improve their performance, while being incentivised to make large improvements, it said.

The LTA also assured that all buses have to adhere to safety regulations and existing Quality of Service Standards. “Buses will not be allowed to exceed speed limits. Instead, bus intervals may be maintained by having the bus in front slow down in a safe manner,” it added.

The trial will start with a small number of services because it will involve a change to bus operations and the LTA will monitor and make refinements over the course of the trial, it said.

When contacted, the Workers’ Party Media Team Chair Gerald Giam said its Members of Parliament have filed questions on the BSRF for the Parliament sitting on Jan 20.

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