SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had made a U-turn on their earlier decision to discontinue bus service 167.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (28 Nov), the LTA announced that it will be maintaining service 167 for the time being, citing the decision is motivated by the recognition of the necessity for commuters to adapt to and explore new travel routes.
“This is especially so for service 167, where the change is more extensive,” it added.
From 17 Dec, bus service 167, which covers the route between Sembawang and Bukit Merah via Upper Thomson and the Orchard area, will operate at intervals of 30 minutes.
Less than two weeks after announcing that service 167 would cease by 10 Dec, the LTA made a quick reversal.
This decision was part of a larger plan to modify bus routes running parallel to segments of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).
Reduced ridership for some bus services along TEL
In their earlier statement, the LTA highlighted a significant decrease in ridership—around 30 to 40 per cent—for some bus services operating along sections of the TEL.
This decline prompted the decision to discontinue service 167 and make other adjustments, aiming to optimize the allocation of limited resources.
The authority underscored that these changes were necessitated by a sustained reduction in demand and the availability of alternative transportation options.
Previously, the LTA had already reduced the frequency of service 167 after noticing decreased demand following the third stage opening of the TEL in November 2022.
Currently, the service operates with intervals ranging from 11 to 20 minutes.
LTA also announced a one-week delay, shifting the changes initially scheduled for bus services 75, 162, 162M, 121, and 859 from 10 to 7 December, aligning with the revised timeline for service alterations.
Despite retaining service 167, LTA mentioned that service 980, which covers a similar route between Sembawang and Novena, will still see an increase in frequency.
LTA says not always possible to preserve direct bus connections for every journey
However, even with the reversal of its decision on service 167, LTA highlighted the challenge of preserving every direct bus connection.
“This is not the best use of our limited resources. As new transport options such as the TEL and other MRT lines become available, and when Singaporeans move into new estates and workplaces, new bus services will be required for these new routes,” said LTA in the statement.
LTA affirmed its ongoing evaluation of the bus network to optimize limited resources.
Among the alterations announced on 17 Nov, Services 162 and 162M will merge into a unified Service 162, with a revised route between Yio Chu Kang Bus Interchange and Sin Ming.
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.
LTA clarified that their review of bus services 75, 162, 162M, and 167 took into account alternative transportation options, such as the TEL.
They noted that the TEL provides a quicker travel alternative for many commuters when factoring in waiting times and transfer durations for buses.
LTA also confirmed the availability of alternative bus routes to ensure continued connectivity.
These alternatives encompass various services: services 196 and 970 will cater to commuters affected by the changes to service 75; services 54, 143, 166, and 980 will serve passengers affected by adjustments to service 162 and 162M; and services 143, 166, 196, and 980 will accommodate travelers affected by modifications to service 167.
Furthermore, LTA mentioned the retention of segments along routes exhibiting stronger demand or providing unique connectivity.
“Service 859 will be amended to ply Canberra Link and Sembawang Road in place of Service 167, while Service 121 will be amended to link Cantonment Road with Outram Park MRT Station in place of Service 75.”
LTA emphasized that these changes aim to ensure that the majority of affected commuters will still have access to both MRT and bus transportation options.
Netizens urge LTA to prioritise commuters’ input and consider convenience
Upon reviewing comments on both LTA’s Facebook posts, certain netizens have emphasized the necessity for LTA to prioritize listening to commuters before finalizing decisions.
They suggested that these adjustments should take into account the convenience of commuters, particularly the elderly.
One netizen criticised LTA for lack of understanding, urging the authority to put more effort into gathering commuters’ feedback.
Another suggestion called LTA collect opinions directly from the general public instead of restricting discussions exclusively to community leaders and MPs.
This approach, the netizen argued, could significantly reduce potential backlash against future decisions.
The netizen stressed the significance of these buses for specific demographics, particularly highlighting the elderly and individuals with limited mobility.
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.
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