More buses to ferry workers to Little India

LTA okays about 5% more private buses today and may allow gradual increase of fleet

Private bus operators will be able to run a few more scheduled buses to Little India today.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is allowing the private bus fleet to increase by "about 5 per cent" from last week's reduced numbers.

The increase, said the LTA, was to "address the issue of longer journey times due to the dormitories being sited farther away from Little India".

Private bus services were suspended the Sunday following Dec8, when a riot was sparked off in Little India after a bus accident led to the death of an Indian national.

The services resumed last Sunday but only half the original number of buses were allowed to run their service.

Usually, between 250 and 280 buses take foreign workers from their dorms to Little India on Sundays. On Sunday last week, only about 11,000 foreign workers arrived by private bus in Little India, compared with up to 23,000 on a typical Sunday before the riot.

The bus services will run from 2pm to 9pm today.

More private buses may be allowed to ply Little India soon. The LTA said that it will "consider some gradual increase in bus capacity in the coming weeks" as part of a broader ongoing review.

The LTA also told The Sunday Times that some improvement works in the vicinity are in the pipeline. It is exploring paving concrete over grassy areas where foreign workers queue for buses.

The LTA has also asked bus operators to distribute fliers reminding workers of the time the last bus leaves Little India.

Singapore School and Private Hire Bus Owners' Association president Neo Tiam Beng said he supports the latest moves. He said: "It is better to do it step by step and not restore to 100 per cent in one shot. This is also in consideration of the residents' sentiments there."

He added: "Paving the queueing area with concrete will also make it safer for the foreign workers."

The association is one of two operators licensed by the LTA to run private bus services to Little India on Sundays. The other operator - the Singapore School Transport Association - could not be reached for comment.

At least one provision store owner said increasing the number of buses to Little India would not make a difference to his business.

"Even if 100 more buses bring workers here, they can buy alcohol but cannot drink in public," said Mr Annai Velu, director of Elyite Exims Trading in Race Course Road. "It is the alcohol consumption ban that is killing us, not the bus restrictions."