The Singapore government has decided to take back control of the bus routes in Singapore, effectively deciding on which routes are available. However, it is not known if it is compulsory for the bus companies to take on any particular routes. The task of planning the routes will be done by LTA, which had a history of making decisions that do not go well with the people in general one of which is the implementation of ERPs in heartlands.

However, it seems like this will be a complete overhaul in the transport system which will be commuter-centric as the government prepares for a population of 14.3 million by 2020. The government also aims to address common complaints by commuters on erratic frequency of buses and the need to change many buses to get to their destination. While some people feel that it’s a little late, some have recognised that it’s better late than never.

BUS travel in Singapore is set to undergo some radical changes to get commuters to their destination faster, with fewer transfers and in some cases, at lower fares.

The overhaul will take place over the next few years in two stages.

First, the Government will take back control of the planning of routes from the two main public transport companies. Then, the bus market will be opened up to more competition.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim announced the plans to make public transport a choice mode and a viable alternative to the car on Friday morning when he launched the Land Transport Gallery.

This is the first of three key policy speeches he will deliver this month on how travel by bus, rail and private vehicles will change to move 5.5 million around.

The changes are the outcome of a major review which started more than a year ago to take stock of a 1996 White paper on land transport and to put in place a new roadmap that will guide developments over the next 10 to 15 years.

Mr Lim said at the heart of the overhaul is a people-centred land transport system.

‘We will do more to put the commuter at the centre of our land transport system. Our land transport system must be planned and built for people, not vehicles,’ said the Minister.

‘This means seeing through the eyes of the commuter from the time he steps out of his house to the time he gets to his destination. In fact, it starts even before that, as soon as he thinks about making a journey.’

Stressing that the Government will ‘invest in quality, not just system capacity’, Mr Lim said: ‘Simply saying we have planned for enough trains and buses for the increased travel demand in 2020, is not enough.

‘We need to ask: Can people get to a train station or bus stop quickly and comfortably? Are the connections good? How long is total journey time and waiting time between transfers? How crowded are the buses and trains? Can people get timely and user-friendly travel information? And so on.

‘Everything that is important to the commuter needs to be thought through. Only then would we be able to achieve our target of making 70 per cent of all morning peak hour trips on public transport by 2020.’

The Government will focus on three principal strategies to address the problems raised by commuters. They are:

  • Making hub-and-spoke system seamless
  • Introducing more competition to drive efficiency and service improvements
  • Involving our People in the Land Transport System

On improving the hub-and-spoke system, Mr Lim said the government will address the key problems of waiting time, travel time and over-crowding.

He said this is the right model for the public transport system here, and the alternative is to have many direct services, which cannot work in a compact city state like Singapore.

Mr Lim also addressed the central question in the review: What will it take for the majority of Singaporeans to choose the bus or MRT over the car?

As a city state, he said Singapore is the second most densely populated country in the world. Already, roads take up 12 per cent of total land area and the demands on land transport system are set to increase by 60 per cent, from our current 8.9 million daily journeys to 14.3 million by 2020.

‘Making public transport the centrepiece of our land transport system will be crucial, to keep congestion in check and help protect our environment,’ said Mr Lim.

He noted that the common complaints from public transport commuters are: long waits, erratic bus arrivals, circuitous feeders, and overcrowded buses.

They want more point-to-point buses because transfers are inconvenient; the waiting time for each leg adds up, and the total journey time is much too long.

But a 2007 Public Transport Customer Satisfaction Survey showed that commuters were satisfied with the public transport system as a whole. The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) also named Singapore as one of the top cities for public transport in their 2006 ‘Mobility in Cities’ report.

However, LTA’s surveys have also highlighted long waiting times and overcrowding as key concerns.

Mr Lim acknowledged that to make public transport competitive with cars, the system must be better.

He added the review has zeroed in on the problems that commuters have highlighted.

For one, the connectivity of the hub-and-spoke system, in particular the integration between the feeders, trunk buses and the MRT, needs to be improved to ensure seamless transfers and make the whole public transport journey as convenient as possible.

System unity is thus critical, said the Transport Minister. He noted the entire public transport system should be planned and operated as a whole and not as separate parts. ‘The choice for the commuter should not be between bus or rail but between public transport and the car. But this is not the case today,’ he said.

Mr Lim added : ‘Currently, the two public transport operators plan the bus routes within their areas of operation based on commercial considerations, subject to minimum service obligations.

‘This has led to a situation where out of more than 250 bus services, only 35 per cent are run at intervals of 10 minutes or less. Some even run at intervals longer than 30 minutes.

‘Then there are the feeder buses that make huge, circuitous loops before they get to the MRT station or bus interchange.’

Mr Lim said the Government will roll out five major initiatives to enhance the hub and spoke system.

They are:

  • LTA to undertake Centralised Bus Planning;
  • Distance-based Through Fares to Facilitate Transfers;
  • Bus Priority Measures to Speed Up Buses;
  • Integrated Public Transport Hubs; and
  • Integrated Public Transport Service Information.

‘With all these changes, commuters will have a public transport system where the bus and rail work together in close partnership. Fast and frequent feeders will bring commuters to the high speed trunk routes served by rail or trunk buses. Services will be co-ordinated and easy to understand. Buses will travel speedily on the roads, aided by comprehensive bus priority measures,’ Mr Lim promised.

‘Commuters will make convenient transfers, without any fare penalty, in the comfort of integrated public transport interchanges. Those who wish to can make use of an integrated season pass. They will have easy access to public transport information on the web and on the phone, including real-time information while on the go.’

Article obtained from on 18th January 2008

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