Little India Riot Inquiry: Language barrier in transport 'may be cause for concern'

Little India Riot Inquiry: Language barrier in transport 'may be cause for concern'
LTA's Mr Yeo Teck Guan said the LTA will try to minimise workers' waiting time.

BUS shelters and queueing areas will be set up in Little India for workers waiting for a ride back to their dormitories, the public hearing into the Dec 8 riot heard.

These permanent facilities will replace temporary pick-up points that have been used there since 1999, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) officer told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on Monday.

The upgrading works will be completed in phases starting next month, said group director for public transport Yeo Teck Guan.

They will include signs in languages that foreign workers understand, added Mr Yeo, who acknowledged that the language barrier between employees of bus service operators and the workers who use the service on Sundays "may be a cause for concern".

Since bus services resumed a fortnight after the riot, private buses have no longer been allowed to wait at pick-up points along Tekka Lane and Hampshire Road.

Instead, buses are now summoned from a holding area to the pick-up point only when the queue reaches 80 per cent of the bus' capacity. This was meant to improve traffic flow and safety, said Mr Yeo.

"What we intend to do is to operate more like a traditional bus stop," he said. "So... we need structures, waiting areas, perhaps shelter and also queue facilities so that the foreign workers can queue in an orderly (manner) and they can board the bus easier so that the bus can go off faster."

Asked by committee chairman G. Pannir Selvam if more buses could be provided to eliminate wait times completely, Mr Yeo said there will always be at least some waiting time, but that the LTA will try to minimise it.

Bus operating hours, reduced after the riot from 2pm till 11pm to 2pm till 9pm, was also a strategy to "clear the area for residents" earlier, said Mr Yeo.

He said the authority has also been keeping tabs on unlicensed transport operators. It has sent enforcement officers to Little India "almost every week" and worked with the bus associations to identify unlicensed lorries and buses.

Sixty such cases were uncovered in 2012 and last year.


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