Public transport operators SMRT and SBS Transit (SBST) earned incentives of over S$1 million in total, for making bus service improvements under the Bus Service Reliability Framework (BSRF) trial being carried out to improve the regularity of bus arrivals.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the trial – which rewards operators for improvements and penalises them if reliability worsens – has shown “encouraging results” with improvements, with 18 of the 22 services that are part of the exercise improving enough to earn incentives.

Started in February last year and modelled on service quality standards applied in cities such as London, the framework gauges the regularity of a bus service using the concept of excess wait time (EWT), the average additional waiting time experienced by commuters. Operators earn payouts if they improve on the EWT or pay a penalty if the EWT worsens, which is measured in units of per 0.1 minutes. More services will be added to the trial in the second half of this year, with details to come at a later date.

The 22 services selected by the LTA comprise high frequency feeder and trunk routes with “reliability issues”. Since the trial started, commuters on average have experienced more regular wait times and greater ease in boarding as the passenger load became spread more evenly across the various bus trips.

For the period of June and November last year — the first assessment period of the trial — SBS Transit earned S$710,285.71 for reliability improvements to 11 services, while SMRT earned S$345,714.29 for improvements to seven services.

“There were no penalties deducted from both operators for this assessment period as none of their services had deteriorated more than 0.1 minutes to fall into the penalty zone,” the LTA said. “The incentives will help to offset the costs incurred by the PTOs to hire the additional service controllers to support the BSRF.”

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