School bus contracts sour, leaving parents in a pickle

School bus contracts sour, leaving parents in a pickle
Red Swastika School - its school bus vendor for 2015 suddenly terminated its services with the school yesterday, leaving parents in the lurch.

Parents of pupils from two schools were left fretting over their children's transport arrangements, after the schools' contracts with a bus operator soured.

Red Swastika School in Bedok and Coral Primary in Pasir Ris had hired bus company Sindoz Group for the new school year, but terminated their contracts at the last minute after finding the firm's service unsatisfactory.

It is not known how many children were affected.

At Red Swastika, parents paid two months' worth of bus fees to Sindoz in November but did not hear from it thereafter.

A mother who wanted to be known only as Madam How, 42, said she did not hear from Sindoz owner Andy Lee after making a $160 deposit payment.

"I tried to call Andy but there was no response," she said.

A day before the school year began, parents received a message from Red Swastika principal Jenny Leong, informing them the school had ended its contract with Sindoz.

Mrs Leong assured parents that the school would look into refunding those who have paid Sindoz.

When asked, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said Red Swastika had appointed Sindoz as its school bus operator last August. But up to Wednesday, Sindoz could not confirm its arrangements with parents.

The school decided then to terminate the contract with Sindoz and work with its former bus operator Goh Transport, said a spokesman.

Mr Goh Bock Sin, who runs Goh Transport, said he received a call from Red Swastika only on Wednesday. "I worked with the school last year and we have a good relationship. So when they asked me for help, I agreed," said Mr Goh. Still, the last-minute appointment meant some parents had to take their children to school yesterday.

At Coral Primary, some children ended up waiting for the school bus provided by Sindoz for an hour yesterday and were late for school. Others were not picked up.

This led to the school ending its contract with the firm, the MOE spokesman said. The school had to make its own arrangements to send children home after lessons ended.

"The school has made arrangements with the alternative transport operator to continue to ferry the students from next week," added the spokesman.

When contacted, Mr Lee claimed the schools had unreasonably terminated his contracts. "It is unfair to terminate my contract even before the service commenced," he said, referring to Red Swastika School.

Mr Lee, who declined to give his age, said he has been in the chartered bus industry for more than 10 years. Asked about the money from parents, he said an operations executive from his firm had "absconded with the money" and that he had made a police report.

But parents should go to the schools, not him, for refunds, he said. "The schools are the ones that terminated the contracts suddenly, so they should bear the costs."

For Madam How, it is not about the refund but whether her daughter has a bus to take her to school.

"If we don't get a school bus, we really have to ask around and get non-working friends to help us out."


This article was first published on Jan 3, 2015.
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