ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
450 more buses to be introduced by 2017
SINGAPORE: The government will expand the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) by introducing 450 more buses from 2015 to 2017.
This will bring the total number of government-funded buses to 1,000 from the original 550 announced in 2012.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew announced this during his ministry's budget debate in Parliament on Tuesday.
The BSEP was launched in 2012, aimed at increasing capacity and improving service over five years.
Under the programme, the government will add 550 buses to the existing bus fleet.
320 are already on the roads, and the rest will follow by the end of 2014, two years ahead of schedule.
With the full implementation of the expanded BSEP by 2017, and with help from private bus operators, total capacity of the bus system will increase by about 35 per cent, or about 1,400 buses, in just five years.
Mr Lui said: "The expanded BSEP, just like the original BSEP, will be funded by the government and not from fare increases. It will continue to draw from the S$1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Fund (BSEF).
“Clearly, the fund will now no longer be sufficient to last for the originally envisaged duration of 10 years. It should, however, be sufficient for the next few years and we will carry out a review of the BSEF at the appropriate time."
National University of Singapore’s Department of Economics Associate Professor Anthony Chin explained the need for enhanced government funding.
"Somewhere along the line there must be a reasonable rate of return to the private operator, otherwise there is no reason for private entity to be in business,” Assoc Prof Chin said.
“We acknowledged that this is not exactly selling clothes, this is selling public mobility, which is a need. Now, if you want to sell something which is a public need at a high quality of service, then something will have to give, as they say ‘cheap is not good, good is not cheap’."
The expanded BSEP will provide more resources to double the number of new routes from 40 announced previously to 80.
Bus crowdedness and waiting times will also be progressively brought down, especially during peak hours.
The BSEP may have led to greater commuter satisfaction.
In the Public Transport Customer Satisfaction Survey done in October last year, commuter satisfaction increased by about 2 per cent.
For rail services, however, customer satisfaction dipped by 3.2 per cent -- due mainly to waiting time, reliability, travel time and customer service concerns.
Recently, the penalty for poor service by rail operators was raised to 10 per cent of fare revenue of the affected rail system, or S$1 million, whichever is higher.
Cedric Foo, chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, has suggested compensating commuters inconvenienced by service disruptions.
Mr Foo said: "Commuters who are impacted by disruptions are credited only for the fare for the failed journey, and also provided alternative bus transport to their destinations.
“This, in my view, does not fully make good the inconveniences borne by these commuters, those who are actually affected by the breakdown. Perhaps fare credits for future trips depending on the duration and the severity of the disruption experienced by the commuter would be more just."
Mr Lui said: "We will consider carefully Mr Foo's suggestion of compensating commuters inconvenienced by service disruptions with fare credits for future trips.
"But bear in mind, it is not straightforward to identify who should be eligible for compensation, as these could potentially include commuters who detour using alternative routes, as well as those who have to forgo their journey."
Mr Lui said that even though there continues to be setbacks in train service, the overall trend on train withdrawals has showed improvements.
Train withdrawals were reduced by at least 25 per cent in 2013 for the North South East West Line (NSEWL), North East Line and Circle Line, with a goal of bringing it down by 20 per cent for the NSEWL.
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