Less travel time, more sleep for pupils

A new premium school transport service, which can cut commute times by up to 40 per cent, is seeing strong interest from parents.

A total of 30 pupils are part of the pilot programme, and another 70 are on the waiting list.

The service was started in January by the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA).

Parents pay between $300 and $350 a month for a car to ferry their child, and no more than three others who live nearby, to school and back.

A regular school bus service, which has about 11 to 40 children on board, costs between $50 and $250, depending on the distance and number of stops. For parents however, the premium fee is worth it, so that their children can get up to an extra hour of sleep in the mornings.

Primary 1 pupil Sydney Tang, 7, who lives at Depot Road and attends Bukit Timah Primary School at Lorong Kismis, gets picked up now at 6.40am instead of 5.55am, when she took the regular school bus. This means waking up later at 6am instead of at 5.15am.

Her father Mark Tang, 39, a manager, said: "She was always so tired and groggy, but she is much more well-rested now." As part of the premium service, Mr Tang also receives a text message from the driver when his daughter arrives in school or home.

Chairman of SSTA's executive council Wong Ann Lin said that the premium service is not meant to replace regular school buses, but offers parents another option, especially for those who drive their children to school or who ferry them using taxis.

SSTA's executive secretary Jeremy Ng said: "This can help reduce vehicular congestion at the schools in the morning, especially in areas like Bukit Timah."

The service, with a fleet of 10 electric cars, serves 11 schools in the western part of the island, including Henry Park Primary and Raffles Girls' Primary.

Mr James Ng, managing director of HDT Singapore, which provides the electric cars, said 10 more cars are available. But he said that while he hopes to cater to those on the waiting list, it is a challenge to find a match between those who live within 1km to 2km of each other, and go to the same school.

Mr Wong said that the SSTA - which has over 1,300 members - is working with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) to get accredited under the CaseTrust scheme.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said that this will help raise the standards of service in the school bus industry, such as through clearer terms of agreement between parents and operators.


This article was first published on April 18, 2015.
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