Changes to Bukit Panjang bus services to be adjusted

Bus services 700 and 700A will still be removed under Land Transport Authority plans. However, routes of existing buses will be altered to plug the gap, ensuring that residents in Petir Road - one of the most affected by the changes - will still have
Bus services 700 and 700A will still be removed under Land Transport Authority plans. However, routes of existing buses will be altered to plug the gap, ensuring that residents in Petir Road - one of the most affected by the changes - will still have a direct bus service to town during peak hours.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

LTA, MPs reach compromise to cushion impact of planned changes on commuters

Planned changes to bus services in Bukit Panjang will be amended, after the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and MPs discussed ways to cushion the impact of these changes on commuters.

The authorities last week said four bus services plying along the MRT Downtown Line (DTL) - which runs from Bukit Panjang to the Singapore Expo - will either stop operating or be rerouted by Sunday.

The LTA had, in announcing the changes and in seeking commuters' understanding earlier, cited the need for financial prudence, with ridership for these parallel bus services falling since the DTL began operating in 2015.

But three public petitions in quick succession, as well as the intervention of Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat and other MPs, led to negotiations for adjustments.

Yesterday, Mr Chee and the MPs announced on Facebook the compromise that they had reached.

While bus services 700 and 700A will still be removed, routes of existing buses will be altered to plug the gap, ensuring that residents in Petir Road - one of the most affected by the changes - will still have a direct bus service to town during peak hours.

Service 972, which links Bukit Panjang to Orchard Road and was set to be rerouted to Newton MRT station, will also continue to ply its old route so that fares and travelling time are unaffected.

However, a portion of service 972 buses will still be redirected to Scotts Road and Newton MRT station in a new service 972M, which could mean a longer wait time as there will be fewer buses for each service. Still, the agreed-upon measures directly addressed the two main grouses of residents, namely the connectivity between Petir Road and town, and the additional travelling time that the rerouting of service 972 would have caused.

With the current peak-hour express service 971E converted to a peak-hour non-express service 971, to link those in Petir Road to the city, commuters will also pay less and be brought closer to their destinations as there will be more stops.

To allow bus operators more time to prepare for the adjustments, current bus routes will now continue until Aug 30.

 
 
 

Said Bukit Panjang MP Liang Eng Hwa: "Bukit Panjang Town has the benefit of the three modes of public transport to serve our residents and we intend to keep it that way.

"Buses will remain an essential mode of transport for our residents and we will continue to work with LTA to improve services."

LTA has also given assurances to MPs and residents that more buses will be added, if there is crowding or long waiting times.

Bukit Panjang resident Elliot Lin, who started one of the three petitions, said he recognised the effort that had gone into finalising the solution.

CATERING TO DIFFERENT GROUPS

I seek everyone's understanding that we need some give and take in such situations, to cater to different groups of commuters while ensuring prudent use of public funds.

SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR TRANSPORT CHEE HONG TAT, on the need to reach a compromise.

However, the 35-year-old realtor said that the new 972M service should also pass through Petir Road so that residents there can still have a direct bus service to town during non-peak hours. "That would cut travelling time by about 15 minutes. Instead, we now have to take bus service 973 to the DTL station for a transfer," he said. "It seems unfair for people to be excluded from more convenience to make up for the unprofitability of the DTL."

LTA has said that there will be more buses for service 973 to increase its frequency.

Mr Chee and Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung had said earlier that the affected bus services and the DTL require heavy government subsidies and that there is a need to exercise prudence in spending public funds.

Bus services 171 and 700 need $14 million in public funds annually to keep running, while about $60 million a year in public funds goes towards subsidising operations for a stretch of the DTL connecting Bukit Panjang to the city.

 

Mr Chee said yesterday: "I seek everyone's understanding that we need some give and take in such situations, to cater to different groups of commuters while ensuring prudent use of public funds."

SERVICE AMENDMENTS

• 971E to be converted to 971. The new service will ply Petir Road before entering Bukit Timah Expressway and Pan-Island Expressway. It will plug the gap of service 700 and provide a direct link to town during peak hours. 

• 971 will run for extended hours from 6.30am to 8.30am, and 6.05pm to 7.35pm. It will no longer be an express service. Fares will drop by up to 60 cents

• 972 no longer rerouted.

• A portion of buses from the 972 service will ply the route of the new service 972M, which calls along Dunearn Road and Scotts Road, to allow commuters in Dunearn and Bukit Timah roads to stay connected to Scotts Road and Newton MRT station. 

• Where necessary, the frequency of 972 and 972M will be increased during peak hours. 

• 973, which connects residents in Petir Road to Hillview MRT station, will have its frequency increased. 

• 700, 700A to be removed, 171 shortened as planned.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2020, with the headline 'Changes to Bukit Panjang bus services to be adjusted'. Print Edition | Subscribe