Little India Riot Inquiry: Shelters, fans, for more comfort

Little India Riot Inquiry: Shelters, fans, for more comfort
TAKING THE STAND: Land Transport Authority group director for public transport Yeo Teck Guan.

LITTLE INDIA RIOT INQUIRY

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be improving the waiting area for Little India bus services.

Taking the stand at the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearings on Monday, LTA group director for public transport Yeo Teck Guan said bus shelters will be built at the waiting area at Hampshire Road and Tekka Lane.

To make waiting more comfortable, there will be fans in the shelters, and the area surrounding them would be paved so it would not get muddy when it rains.

Signs have been put up to inform workers about where they can wait for the buses and the new stops will have permanent signs to ensure queues are more orderly.

The LTA will also work with private bus operators to reduce waiting time for the buses, Mr Yeo said.

He added that after the riot, the authority has been meeting with the two operators after each week's bus service. The two operators are the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA) and the Singapore School Private Hire Bus Owners Association (SSPHOA, also known as S7).

SSTA operates the buses operating at Tekka Lane, while S7 manages those at Hampshire Road.

CONSOLIDATION

When Little India bus services first started in 1999, there were 10 bus stops all over the locality, but this has since been consolidated to two because of nearby construction work and lack of use.

Since the Dec 8 riot, bus services in Little India have been running at 56 per cent of capacity compared to before the riot, or 166 buses taking passengers back to their dormitories. A dozen more buses are added on payday Sundays.

Now the buses stop allowing workers to join the queue at 9pm, compared to 11pm previously.

COI member John De Payva asked if the operators have given feedback that when the gates to the queuing area close at 9pm, there would be a large group of about 200-300 foreign workers in the queue. This could be a potential problem.

"You need to be careful how you answer this because you are going to be held personally responsible if anything happens," he said.

In response, Mr Yeo said the buses had been arriving regularly after 9pm to clear those in the holding area and that last Sunday, the queues were cleared within 15 minutes.

"On paydays (the bus queues at 9pm) will maybe get up to 400-plus (people). We keep tabs on the situation on the ground very closely. We also keep in touch with the operators so that we can adjust operations if there is a need to," he said.

WORKERS TURNED AWAY

When the services first started ending earlier, the bus operators had to turn away more foreign workers after closing the bus queues. Now, they do not turn away that many because the workers are familiar with the new arrangements.

Last Sunday, there were "barely 10 or 20", Mr Yeo said, adding that he was in Little India personally to observe the situation.

A few foreign workers he spoke with also said they were happy with the new arrangement. They said it was less chaotic and that they had better chances of getting a seat if they got into the queuing area by 9pm.

Other witnesses who testified on Monday include former Nominated Member of Parliament Shriniwas Rai, who requested to testify; Mr Michael Tan Jun How, a representative from S7, and two auxiliary police officers hired by the National Environment Agency.

lawsm@sph.com.sg


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