SINGAPORE: Starting 10 December, adjustments will be made to several bus services due to the increased usage of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).
Service 167, connecting Sembawang, Upper Thomson, Novena, Orchard, the central business district, and Bukit Merah, will be discontinued to accommodate the changes.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced on Friday (17 Nov) that alterations will be implemented in existing services to maintain connectivity along essential segments initially covered by service 167.
LTA specified that Service 859 will be modified to include routes along Canberra Link and Sembawang Road. This alteration aims to improve connectivity to Bukit Canberra.
Moreover, the frequency of Service 980, covering a similar route as Service 167 between Sembawang and Thomson Road, will be increased to address the transition.
These modifications apply to three services operated by Tower Transit Singapore.
Reduced ridership for some bus services along TEL
The Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) stands as Singapore’s sixth Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line, set to link the eastern and northern regions of Singapore upon its full completion by 2025.
Upon the inauguration of Phase 1 of the Cross Island Line in 2030, Singapore’s MRT network will expand to encompass eight rail lines, solidifying its comprehensive reach across the city-state.
According to LTA, the ridership for some bus services plying along segments of TEL has seen an overall decrease of around 30 to 40 percent.
LTA noted that Since the opening of the Thomson-East Coast Line Stage 3 (TEL3), the average weekday ridership on TEL has almost tripled from 60,000 in October 2022 to 177,000 in October 2023.
“More commuters are using TEL3 because of the shorter travelling time to different parts of Singapore. 80% of the journeys involving TEL3 saw shorter travelling times, of which about 30% saved more than 10 minutes. ”
“For example, a resident staying near Mayflower station can now commute to the Central Business District via Shenton Way station in just 30 minutes via TEL, as compared to the 45 minutes it takes by bus. The same resident visiting Gardens by the Bay now takes 40 minutes with TEL, saving 25 minutes. ”
Streamlining bus routes to better serve residents in newly developed estates
Consequently, LTA plans to optimize bus routes to streamline services and allocate resources more effectively to cater to residents in newer estates.
Effective immediately, SBS Transit’s Services 162 and 162M will merge into a unified Service 162, with a revised route between Yio Chu Kang Bus Interchange and Sin Ming.
The newly adjusted route will exclude Thomson Road and the central business district, focusing on bolstering local connectivity within Sin Ming while establishing fresh links to Upper Thomson Road, as stated by LTA.
Additionally, SMRT Buses’ Service 75 will undergo route adjustments, excluding stops at Outram Park MRT Station, Shenton Way, and Marina Centre, as highlighted on SMRT’s website.
The revised route will terminate at Bukit Merah Bus Interchange instead of Marina Centre Bus Terminal, facilitating enhanced connectivity for residents along Kim Tian Road, in line with LTA’s plans.
To maintain the vital link between Outram Park MRT and the Cantonment area estates, SBS Transit’s Service 121 will be modified to include Cantonment Road en route to Shenton Way Bus Terminal.
Comprehensive information detailing these alterations will be accessible at relevant bus stops, interchanges, as well as on the official websites of LTA and the respective bus operators.
PTC announces 7% hike in bus and train fares in September
On 18 September this year, the Public Transport Council’s (PTC) announced the 7 per cent increase in bus and train fares, which will go up by 10 to 11 cents for adults who pay by card from Dec 23.
This hike, the steepest since 2019, particularly marks an unprecedented 11-cent surge.
During a Parliamentary debate on 3 October, Acting Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat rebuffed appeals by MPs, including Louis Chua from Sengkang GRC, to freeze future public transport fare hikes or eliminate a deferred 15.6% increase in subsequent fare review exercises.
Mr Chee highlighted concerns that such actions would exacerbate existing funding gaps for transport services, potentially imposing heavier burdens on taxpayers in the future.
Acting Transport Minister dismissed MP’s calls to halt future fare increases as ‘populist’ during October Parliamentary session
Critiquing these suggestions as “not sound” and “populist,” Chee emphasized the impact on Singapore’s public transport system’s long-term reliability and financial sustainability.
Mr Chua highlighted one operator’s substantial returns on equity over the past years, questioning the current financial sustainability of operators.
In response, Chee defended the fare increase, citing the PTC’s fare formula based on core inflation, national wage growth, and energy prices, emphasizing that operators cannot assume full cost recovery through fare adjustments.
He stressed the need for cost management and productivity improvement.
“The operators cannot assume that their cost increases will be matched by correspondingly higher fares. Hence, they need to be disciplined in managing their costs and improving their productivity over time,” he added.
Chee noted that bus services operate at an overall loss, prompting a yearly government subsidy of $1 billion, cautioning that eliminating deferred fares or freezing increases would escalate losses and government subsidies, ultimately borne by taxpayers.
He underscored the different financing models for bus and rail services, stating that bus services operate under a government-contracted model where fares are collected, and the government pays operators a service fee.
“Expunging the deferred fare or freezing future fare increases will result in larger losses and higher government subsidies,” he said. “We need to be clear that government subsidies are ultimately borne by current and future generations of taxpayers.”
Chee concluded by highlighting the consequences on reliable public transport services if operators absorb all increased costs.