Nine bus operators to end school services next year

Nine bus operators to end school services next year

Pupils of at least 10 primary schools may start the new year without school buses after nine operators said they will stop their services.

The operators blamed the lack of drivers, rising costs of fuel and insurance, along with more primary schools going single session for their decision, and said it no longer made economic sense to carry on.

The Sunday Times understands that the affected schools will include Pei Tong Primary in Clementi and Greenwood Primary in Woodlands. According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), the schools are working closely with the operators and will be informing parents of the school bus arrangements soon.

To cope with rising costs, school bus operators, which are restricted in the amount they can charge by the schools, earlier this year raised monthly fares by between $5 and $30.

Parents now pay between $65 and $200, based on distance.

But this has not been enough for some operators.

"We are giving up some of our school bus services because we can't be running at a loss," said Mr Lim Yong Long, the 56-year-old owner of Long Lim Transport, who has been in the business for 34 years.

"Many people do not want to be drivers. The younger ones choose not to go into this line because the pay isn't attractive."

Private bus drivers can earn between $1,600 and $2,500 a month.

According to Mr Lim, at least 90 per cent of school bus drivers are above 50 years old.

MOE also plans to move most primary schools to a single morning session by 2016.

Next year, 155 out of 190 primary schools will be single session. This means that drivers are increasingly only able to make two daily trips, compared with four trips in the past.

Singapore School Transport Association chairman Wong Ann Lin said: "If the drivers can drive more sessions, that would mean more income."

Many operators are diversifying their businesses to make up for the shortfall, ferrying factory workers and providing bus services for tour groups.

"It is easier to ferry factory workers," said Mr Lim Siang Hai, owner of San Hai Bus Transport Service, which has pulled out from two schools in the last five years and might give up serving another two.

"There is a lot of responsibility that comes with ferrying children from schools. It is difficult to handle kids, and if their parents are not pleased, they complain."

For many parents, school bus services are a necessity.

"For parents who have to work or do not drive, they need the school bus services for their kids," said housewife Jacqueline Low, whose nine-year-old son takes the school bus home from Anglo-Chinese School (Primary).

"We have no choice."

This article was first published on Nov 02, 2014.
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