SINGAPORE - The first bus package to be tendered out under a new operating model will comprise 24 existing routes in the west of Singapore.
Announcing details yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the routes originate from the Jurong East, Bukit Batok and Clementi bus interchanges.
Operators can bid to run the package, starting with about 380 buses, and expanding to about 500 buses by 2021, in tandem with the development of Tengah New Town and Bukit Batok West.
In a radical restructuring of the public bus industry, the Government will now own all fleets and infrastructure, and contract out routes to be operated by transport companies.
The first bus package will operate from the new Bulim depot off Jurong West Avenue 2, which will be ready in 2015 and have facilities for refuelling and maintenance.
The LTA will put the package up for tender later this year, and open it to all parties - incumbents SBS Transit and SMRT, local operators and foreign ones.
The operator that wins the tender will start running the routes from the second half of 2016. Of the 24 routes, 16 are from SBS Transit and eight from SMRT.
Announcing the change to a contracting model last week, LTA said it would inject more competition to the industry and raise service levels.
This bus package is the first of three to be tendered out over the next two years. The remaining 80 per cent of buses will be bundled into nine packages, to be run by SBS Transit and SMRT until they are put up for tender around 2022.
Some local and foreign operators - including Australia's Tower Transit - have expressed interest in submitting bids.
Mr Roger Wong, general manager of private bus company Woodlands Transport, said his firm would study the tender documents and consider issues such as whether it can recruit enough manpower. It has not ruled out partnering local firms or forming a joint venture with interested foreign operators, he added.
SBS said it will assess the tender, while SMRT said it was ready to take part in the exercise. Both operators have met their staff, together with the LTA and National Transport Workers' Union, to explain the impact of the changes and reassure them. The LTA will require the successful tender applicant to make competitive employment offers to affected workers.
Energy analyst and part-time master's student Oliver Yuen, 26, takes service 96 home after night classes at the National University of Singapore. He thinks contracting out the route might help improve its off-peak frequency.
"Sometimes, the crowd comes when night classes end and buses are not frequent," he said.
The 380 buses in the package are likely to be a mix of new ones purchased under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme and replacement buses for the operators. Existing buses plying those routes will be redeployed.
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