Private bus operator hopes services will be fully restored

Private bus operator hopes services will be fully restored
Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA) chairman Wong Ann Lin outside the State Court on 14 March 2014.

The operator of private bus services which take workers back to their dormitories from Little India hopes the authorities will reinstate the number of buses allowed, which were cut as a cooling-off measure after the riot on Dec 8.

Representatives from the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA) told the Committee of Inquiry yesterday that more vehicles were needed to accommodate the big crowd of workers arriving to catch the last buses by the new cut-off time of 9pm.

It now takes up to 45 minutes after 9pm before the association can get all workers on board the buses, said SSTA chairman Wong Ann Lin, even after redirecting buses on other routes to help.

The fleet size allowed to serve the enclave on Sundays was cut by half to 75 buses after the riot. Pick-up times were also shortened from between 2pm and 11pm to 2pm and 9pm.

But fewer buses, together with the many workers who want to stay in Little India till the last minute, meant that the crowd can double to as many as 800 workers in the Tekka Lane waiting area after 9pm, added SSTA's timekeeper supervisor Tan Jwee Tuan.

The problem is made worse because some bus drivers do not return to Little India if they think they will be there past the pick-up time, and go home instead.

"At present, (9pm) is an anxious time for us because we don't know whether there will be buses coming to ferry these people," said Mr Tan, who added he sometimes felt a little threatened when workers got annoyed and restive.

"If you don't ferry 800 people home, if they get angry, then it may give rise to another riot."

Mr Wong said the shorter operating hours and reduced bus numbers have affected drivers' livelihoods, as they now work alternate weeks instead of every Sunday.

Added Mr Tan: "You should not limit the number of buses taking them back, because if they go back earlier, it would improve the situation (in Little India)."

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