I was a little shocked that a trial bus service to serve the residents of the Yio Chu Kang estate was rejected because the fare that was proposed wasn’t high enough. Apparently there’s no direct service from the Yio Chu Kang private estate to the nearest MRT stations and getting to one is quite a hassle. So while the MP for the GRC lobbied for a premium service, PTC rejected the only respondent – SMRT, on the grounds that the fare of S$1.30 is too low.

So, just to make sure that the PTC is what I thought it’s meant to be, I visited the website, which had its mission statement:

The Public Transport Council (PTC) was established in 1987 as an independent body to approve and regulate bus services, public transport fares and ticket payment services. It is entrusted with the challenging mission of balancing commuters’ interest with the long-term viability of the public transport operators.

We seek to :

  • create a comprehensive and integrated bus network;

  • assure quality bus services;

  • maintain affordable bus and train fares for the public; and

  • safeguard public interest in the mode of payment of fares.

I guess the keyword is "regulate" because in biology, regulate means that something can either go up or down so as to maintain homeostasis – which really means that the PTC does have to right to ask the service provider to increase fares; although I am not sure how this ties in with maintaining affordable bus and train fares for the public.

I think they probably forgot that not everyone got a pay rise.

THESE little green buses are on trial providing a shuttle service from the Yio Chu Kang MRT station and bus interchange to nearby private housing estates. Despite being concerned over profitability, the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit System (SMRT) Corporation launched the route yesterday.

The new service is the result of some prodding by Ms Lee Bee Wah, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and adviser of Nee Soon South grassroots organisations, who managed to convince the transportation company after months of discussions.

As a result, two green air-conditioned minibuses — which can seat 19 people — would now serve some 1,200 households in Springside, Hong Heng, Thong Soon Gardens and Springleaf estates, stopping at five pick-up points in these areas.

Residents there had in the past complained to Ms Lee about the lack of public transport to a nearby MRT station or bus interchange, especially useful to students and the elderly.

It has been an arduous journey. Ms Lee spent about one year trying to convince SBS Transit and SMRT of the need for such a service, but both were concerned about its feasibility.

While SBS Transit rejected the idea because it was "not viable", SMRT decided to give it a trial run after it conducted a feasibility study, said Ms Lee.

But that was not the only hurdle.

When the proposal was submitted to the Public Transport Council (PTC) in June, it was rejected because the fare proposed ($1.30 per trip) was not appropriate for a premium bus service, usually priced between $2 to $3 per trip.

"So I took another six months to talk to the PTC, Land Transport Authority and the Ministry of Transport. Eventually, I managed to get it approved last month," said Ms Lee, who added that she had even approached Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for help.

Said SMRT’s deputy chief executive officer Lee Seng Kee: "We made a projection and based on the population size, we believe that the $1.30 fare is feasible."

When asked what would happen if SMRT does not break even after three months, Mr Lee said: "We are prepared to extend for another four months. At the same time, the committee will talk to residents to use the service. If that doesn’t work, we would look at the numbers again."

Mr Wilson Zhuang, chairman of Springleaf Neighbourhood Committee, said the shuttle service would cut down travel to the nearest MRT by about 10 minutes.

Before the service, residents in the areas would take about 20 minutes to travel to Ang Mo Kio MRT station, which is further away, on bus 169, he said.

But another resident, a retiree in his 50s who declined to be named, said while he appreciate the effort by Ms Lee, he believed it would make better sense if the new shuttle service travels to Chong Pang town centre and Khatib MRT.

He said: "There is no market at Yio Chu Kang MRT station. Housewives would be happier if the service goes to Khatib MRT which is not only nearer but also has grocery shopping facilities."

Nazry Bahrawi

Article obtained from todayonline.com at http://www.todayonline.com/articles/229165.asp dated 26th December 2007 on 30th December 2007

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