NSP questions new plan to cut bus waiting times

SINGAPORE- The opposition National Solidarity Party (NSP) yesterday questioned a new carrot-and- stick scheme to get buses to be more punctual as the solution to the overcrowding problem on public buses.

On the contrary, it could compromise the safety of passengers, NSP's secretary-general Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss said in a statement.

She said the scheme's focus on punctuality seems to shift the responsibility for overcrowded buses to public transport operators (PTOs) and drivers.

In doing so, it may "compel PTOs to pressure their bus drivers to perform in a manner without proper consideration of safety risks for bus passengers and with reduced regard for road safety", she said.

Under the new Bus Service Reliability Framework (BSRF), announced on Monday, an operator stands to gain up to $6,000 a month for every six seconds it shaves from a bus service's historical excess waiting time (EWT).

The EWT indicator measures the difference between actual and scheduled waiting times.

However, the operator can be penalised up to $4,000 for every six seconds it exceeds the EWT.

A two-year trial of the scheme will begin next month.

Mrs Chong-Aruldoss asked why the reward amount was higher than that of the penalty.

It would also have been more understandable if the new framework rewards service standards that exceed what is expected of the operators, she added.

She also urged the Government to refrain from giving the PTOs, which she said are "highly profitable private businesses", further subsidies to "conduct trials on how to improve their operations".

Calling for more immediate solutions to the overcrowding problem, she said the steps taken so far indicate commuters are not going to get relief any time soon.

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