450 buses on the road with govt funding

THE billion-dollar Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) is gaining speed, with 450 government- funded buses put on the road as of last month - up from 361 buses at end-June.

These buses now make up just under 10 per cent of Singapore's total public bus fleet of 4,600; and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the cohort will reach 550 by year end.

Starting from 2012, the Government partnered bus operators to increase bus capacity and enhance bus service levels. The accelerated fleet expansion was an urgent response to soaring public transport ridership.

It has allowed operators to ramp up service frequency, especially during peak hours.

The LTA said 144 out of 275 existing basic bus services have improved since BSEP started two years ago.

Besides pumping in additional buses to existing routes, 31 new services have been rolled out - including 10 City Direct services that mimic MRT routes.

Among the new services were SBS Transit services 324 and 386, which were introduced in Hougang and Punggol in the third quarter. They connect commuters to MRT stations and bus interchanges.

Five more new services will be launched in the coming months in Bukit Batok, Changi, Jurong East, Kallang and West Coast, it added.

As a result of the enhancement programme, the LTA said waiting times on popular routes have shortened by three to seven minutes. SMRT service 966, for example, which loops between Woodlands and Marine Parade, now runs at an improved frequency of four to eight minutes during the morning peak, and six to 13 minutes during the evening peak periods.

It previously ran at a frequency of six to 10 minutes during the morning peak, and nine to 16 minutes during the evening peak.

Crowded services have also seen improvements.

For instance, SMRT service 962 has seen peak hour crowding reduced by about 15 per cent since the programme started.

Serangoon resident Winston Tan, 53, said there are more services now. The finance manager, who works at Alexandra Point, said he notices buses are also "newer and more comfortable".

"That's good," he said. "I think we are getting to be world-class."

Ang Mo Kio resident Richard Seah, who takes the bus to town, agreed that buses appear newer.

But the 58-year-old freelance writer said: "Waiting time is still unpredictable."

In March, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew announced that BSEP would be enhanced.

The Government, he said, would fund 1,000 new buses instead of the original 550.

All 1,000 buses will be on the road by 2017. The cost of the programme is expected to double from the original $1.1 billion.

Besides purchasing the buses, the programme pays for operating costs, such as driver salary, for 10 years.


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