Little India riot: Big money...moving masses

Little India riot: Big money...moving masses
CROWDS: Foreign workers spending their Sundays on Little India's streets and open areas.

Twleve buses, each seating 40 passengers and each making two trips, ferry about 960 foreign workers from their dormitories at various parts of the country to Little India every Sunday.

And that is only the number from one bus company.

Xing Sheng Transport Services owner Lim Yong Long's buses cater to only a fraction of the South Asian nationals who flock to the ethnic neighbourhood each Sunday.

Ms Zhang Li, the administrative manager at the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA), said the 150 buses under it ferry as many as 20,000 foreign workers to and from Little India every Sunday.

And there are big bucks involved. Buses under SSTA charge between $4 and $6 per round trip.

Do the maths: 20,000 passengers, with each passenger paying an average of $5 for a round trip, comes to $100,000.

And the 20,000 is only the number from one association.

32,000 workers a day

"Don't forget that on top of the 20,000," said Ms Zhang, "there are also those ferried by buses under the SSPHBOA (Singapore School & Private Hire Bus Owners' Association), which can easily chalk up the same number, given their fleet size (of 113 buses)."

The SSPHBOA charges passengers between $3 and $5, according to distances.

The SSTA is one of the two associations licensed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to handle the Little India bus service.

The second association is the SSPHBOA. Both associations have been operating the Little India bus service for more than a decade.

SSPHBOA chairman Neo Tian Beng, 46, said there are 113 buses under it that cater to the foreign workers on Sundays. These buses can handle 12,000 foreign workers in one day.

The combined figure of 32,000 workers is more than enough to fill The Float@ Marina Bay, where the National Day Parade has been held in recent years.

Even using conservative figures - for example, that the combined fleet of 263 buses make just one trip each, with 40 workers on each bus and each worker paying just $4 - $42,000 is spent each Sunday. That's more than $168,000 a month.

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