Have you heard of and traveled to the CBD using City Direct Bus Services? Launched by the LTA under the $1.1b Bus Services Enhancement Programme, they are operated by either Comfort Delgro (parent company of SBS Transit) or select Private Operators chosen via tender. The buses under this Programme plies past fewer stops, hence promising faster journey from outskirts to either town or CBD. They have been necessitated by the severe overcrowding on our trains.

This alternative sounds nice but there is a catch: City Direct buses cost much more – a trip from Boon Lay to Marina Bay Financial Centre for instance costs about $2.37 compared to $1.76 on the NS Line. And if one digs deeper into LTA’s archives, the rationale behind having such premium services become even more galling especially for residents along the NEL. In 2003, when the NEL was launched, the LTA withdrew a slew of bus services that ran parallel to the train line. This was to force commuters to take the NEL so SBS Transit can turn a profit on the line This is despite the fact that SBS Transit is a private company.

Buses like 97 and 118, which offered direct access from Hougang to Jurong East and Orchard respectively were rerouted. As a result, residents were left to the mercy of the trains which got more crowded over time and is today beyond maximum capacity. So now instead of reinstating the previously withdrawn buses, the LTA has introduced premium services supposedly to offer hapless commuters an alternative?

It’s like saying: too bad for the overcrowding on the trains because of our bad planning. You can always pay more to avoid the crowd. Some S’poreans may see this as LTA being proactive but you know what? As we said earlier: the City Direct Bus Services is using funds from the BSEP which is paid for by taxpayers. So there you have it:

We are paying three times for the PAP and LTA’s avarice:

1. For the overcrowding resulting from LTA’s withdrawal of the parallel bus services

2. For the premium bus services to avoid the overcrowding

3. For the BSEP to fund the premium bus services. Unfortunately, many S’poreans are frogs in the well or enjoy getting “screwed”. So which segment do you belong to?

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