Fewer buses ferrying workers to Little India

People walk on the street in the Little India on Dec 15, 2013. The number of private buses ferrying workers to Little India will be halved this Sunday, and they will stop operating two hours earlier. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
People walk on the street in the Little India on Dec 15, 2013. The number of private buses ferrying workers to Little India will be halved this Sunday, and they will stop operating two hours earlier. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

The services will also end earlier this Sunday to reduce congestion

The number of private buses ferrying workers to Little India will be halved this Sunday, and they will stop operating two hours earlier.

These changes will limit the number of workers travelling to Little India, as the one-week suspension on the 25 private bus services is lifted.

Previously, 250 to 280 buses would ferry about 20,000 to 23,000 workers to Little India every Sunday. The scheduled services ran from 2pm to 11pm.

From this Sunday, they will run from 2pm to 9pm.

The changes are not permanent, Mr Yeo Teck Guan, the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) group director for public transport, said yesterday.

He said: "We want to reduce the congestion that is caused, and reduce the inconvenience that is caused to residents."

The fewer buses will allow the LTA and bus associations to fine- tune the services to reduce traffic congestion, he said.

The LTA is also looking into how to maintain a smooth traffic flow by, among other measures, improving boarding and alighting points and making it more convenient for workers to queue while waiting for buses, Mr Yeo said.

The two bus associations that run the Little India services - the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA) and the Singapore School and Private Hire Bus Owners' Association - cheered the lifting of the suspension, and hoped the number of buses would be raised over time.

Said the latter's president Neo Tiam Beng: "I had feared they would suspend the services for a few months. Now, I can tell my members we can at least run 50 per cent of the buses."

Still, he expects workers to stay away this Sunday.

"This is a sensitive period. The demand will not be high. They have to regain confidence, which will take time," said Mr Neo.

SSTA chairman Wong Ann Lin said the changes will allow members to earn at least some income.

His association will raise the number of marshals in Little India from four to 10 on Sunday to manage the workers, he said.

Neither association intends to make up for the loss in revenue by raising fares, as the changes are temporary, they noted.

The fares range from $1.50 to $3 for a one-way trip.

Last Sunday, the LTA and operator SBS Transit increased train frequency on the North-East Line that serves Little India from six to five minutes to cater to any spill- over of workers arising from the bus suspension.

Additional trips were also made by public buses that travelled to dormitory areas.

The LTA said it will monitor the public transport situation this Sunday and, where necessary, make appropriate changes to the train and bus schedules.

Meanwhile, major dormitory operators have been encouraged to provide more recreational activities for the foreign workers, said divisional director Kevin Teoh of the Manpower Ministry.

The People's Association will work with grassroots organisations to organise movie screenings at six dormitories this weekend, he said.

He added that his ministry will continue to work with the dormitory operators to line up activities for foreign workers to relax and enjoy themselves on their rest days.

roysim@sph.com.sg