SINGAPORE: From Monday, commuters can expect less crowded buses and more frequent arrivals as the government rolls out its S$1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme which seeks to ramp up bus capacity over the next five years.
Twenty—eight new buses are being added to 26 routes with heavy ridership during the morning and evening peak periods. The new buses will add 335 more weekly bus trips to these 26 routes.
By year—end, more than 25 new buses will be added to about as many routes, along with the introduction of five new services which will get 37 new buses.
In all, more than 90 new buses will be added by the end of the year.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Yishun Bus Interchange on Thursday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said one of the five new services will run a route parallel to the existing rail network.
He said in the coming years, some 40 new services will be added, with up to eight of them running parallel to train lines.
Mr Lui said he hopes to implement more of such parallel services in the first quarter of next year, as the new routes to be rolled out for the first half of 2013 are being finalised.
The aim is to not overly—concentrate the improvements in one area but to spread them out geographically across Singapore.
For example, places like Shenton Way in central Singapore and estates like Bishan, Ang Mo Kio and Punggol will see more frequent buses.
Service 922, a loop service from Bukit Panjang Bus Interchange to Bangkit Road, currently operates at a frequency of 23 to 24 minutes during the morning peak period, and 24 to 25 minutes during evening peak hours.
With enhancements, it will operate at a frequency of 12 to 15 minutes during the morning peak period, and 12 to 17 minutes during evening peak hours.
A commuter said: "It’s about time. Because the crowding in buses is getting a bit too much."
Another said: "For people who take the buses regularly to go to work and to school I think it would certainly be helpful. Although, then again, with traffic congestion, it could defeat the whole purpose."
Additional buses will also serve new routes to be introduced by December.
The routes will cover places like Tampines, Punggol, Hougang, Bishan and the central business district.
One new service is 860, which promises better connectivity to schools and community centres for Yishun residents.
Another is an extension of the bus route for Service 119, which will connect Punggol to Sengkang. Both services will start on 21 October.
Mr Lui said: "Now, really, everybody wants the new services, the additional buses as quickly as possible. We’re going to try and do our best.
"But there are constraints of course, both in terms of the drivers and also making sure that we’ve got proper places to park the new buses."
Mr Lui said if the constraints can be overcome, the rollout of the Bus Service Enhancement Programme may be completed in less than the five years envisioned.
He said over time, 95 per cent of feeder buses will come in 10 minutes or less, once the increased frequency of services takes effect.
Mr Lui said the two public transport operators, SMRT and SBS Transit, have managed to recruit 150 more bus drivers from January to August this year, compared with the same period in 2011.
This has helped with the roll—out of the new buses.
The operators expect to hire about 360 more bus drivers till the end of the year.
And with more buses on roads, the government is looking at extending bus lanes and the mandatory give—way—to—buses scheme, Mr Lui said.
There will be a total of 550 brand new buses under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme.
The Land Transport Authority will step up audits and checks on public transport operators where service quality is concerned.
By end of 2014, operators will be required to reduce passenger loading levels for all basic bus services to 85 per cent — from the current 95 per cent of their licensed capacity.
Bus Service Enhancement Programme map, by the Land Transport Authority, shows roughly where the bus service improvements will be seen.
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