Nine private bus operators bid to run City Direct routes

The bus stop opposite Gek Pok Shopping Centre is one of the stops on the Jurong West City Direct route. The two-year contract for the route was won by ComfortDelGro Bus, which launched City Service 651 yesterday.
The bus stop opposite Gek Pok Shopping Centre is one of the stops on the Jurong West City Direct route. The two-year contract for the route was won by ComfortDelGro Bus, which launched City Service 651 yesterday.ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Nine private bus operators have bid to run nine City Direct bus services which will give heartland commuters an extra option in and out of the city.

The nine routes, which will be rolled out from next January, will serve residents in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Batok, Eunos, Hougang, Jurong East, Sembawang, Sengkang and West Coast.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA), which called for tenders for the routes in June, can award the services individually or in packages, which means there could be multiple private operators getting deals.

Bidders were free to submit proposals for one or more of the routes before July's deadline. Ng Ing Tsair Bus Service,for instance, put in a bid to operate only the Bedok route.

Transtar Travel general manager Lily Loh revealed that her firm put in bids to run the Jurong East and West Coast services, saying: "It fits our business model."

The firm, which currently runs a cross-border service between Johor Baru and Resorts World Sentosa, aims to increase its services in the west, with Genting Singapore opening a hotel in Jurong in 2015.

Transtar Travel, along with four of the nine, also vied for the Jurong West City Direct tender which closed in March.

That two-year contract was won by ComfortDelGro Bus for about $1.06 million. Yesterday it launched City Service 651, which starts from Jurong West Avenue 3 before taking the Ayer Rajah Expressway on the way to Marina Boulevard - a journey which takes about an hour.

To date, the LTA has started five "parallel" bus services to ferry commuters from housing estates to the city on expressways during peak hours. It said these services have been well received, with more instances of passenger loads of more than 70 per cent.

To cope with demand, SMRT, for one, has doubled the number of morning trips on 850E, which connects Yishun to the city, to four. It has also added a morning trip to service 951E, which links Woodlands to Shenton Way.

Soon, the LTA will also call for tenders for private operators to run short feeder services during peak hours in estates.

roysim@sph.com.sg