SINGAPORE: The government may open up competition for some bus routes before 2016.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew on Wednesday said his ministry intends to move ahead with contestability for bus packages to "some extent", even before the existing licences for the two bus operators —— namely, SMRT and SBS Transit —— expire in 2016.
Mr Lui was responding to a question raised by MP Cedric Foo, who asked for the ministry’s plans on opening up competition for bus routes.
Mr Lui said: "We will need to be very careful to make sure that the packages are configured appropriately and this is something that will take time.
"The existing licenses for the two bus operators, running the current 200—plus routes, will run out in 2016. So this is something that we are looking at very carefully to see how we can move ahead with contestability for bus packages — perhaps not to the full extent but to some extent — even prior to that taking place."
The minister said that over time, the contestability framework should be similar to that of London’s, where there are seven operators contesting to run and operate different packages of routes.
However, the challenge would be in packaging routes together with the supporting infrastructure like depots and interchanges to support the contestability framework.
As for the rail network, Mr Lui said foreign players may also be invited to participate in the contest for future lines.
Existing rail lines run by SMRT and SBS Transit will also come under a contestability framework.
Mr Lui said: "How to do so, and in what time frame, and the details — we need to work out. But we certainly hope to see some progress within the next two to three years.
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