A new incentive-and-penalty scheme to improve bus service reliability appears to shift the responsibility for overcrowded buses to public transport operators (PTOs) and drivers, said the National Solidarity Party (NSP) on Friday.
This may cause passengers' safety to be compromised, it added in a statement on the Bus Service Reliability Framework (BSRF) announced on Monday.
NSP secretary-general Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss called for more immediate solutions, saying: "The BSRF scheme seems to shift the responsibility for this problem onto the PTOs and the bus drivers - as if the problem of over-crowding in our public buses can be solved by getting bus drivers to be more punctual."
The scheme seeks to minimise excess waiting time (EWT), an indicator which measures the difference between actual and scheduled waiting times.
A two-year pilot will begin next month. An operator stands to gain up to $6,000 per month for every six seconds it shaves from a service's historical EWT. However, it can be penalised up to $4,000 for every six seconds by which it exceeds the EWT.
On Friday, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss asked why the incentive quantum is higher than the penalty, and questioned if the carrot-and-stick method would "compel PTOs to pressure their bus drivers to perform in a manner without proper consideration of safety risks for bus passengers and with reduced regard for road safety".
It would have been more understandable if the new framework rewards service standards that exceed what is expected of the operators, she said.
The Government should also refrain from giving the operators, which she termed "highly profitable private businesses", further subsidies for them to "conduct trials on how to improve their operations".
Earlier this week, the Land Transport Authority also announced that the remaining 260 new buses of the 550 funded by the Government under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) will be rolled out by the end of this year.
However, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss said the problem of overcrowded buses still persists and more immediate solutions are needed.
"With schemes like the BSEP and BSRF, the Transport Minister seems to suggest to commuters that the fixes for our current problems in public transportation lie only in the future," she said.