No lack of drivers for beefed-up bus fleet: LTA

SBS Transit buses at the Toa Payoh bus interchange. There is currently no shortage of bus drivers, even as more buses are added ahead of schedule as part of a $1.1 billion service enhancement programme, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA). -
SBS Transit buses at the Toa Payoh bus interchange. There is currently no shortage of bus drivers, even as more buses are added ahead of schedule as part of a $1.1 billion service enhancement programme, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA). -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

There is currently no shortage of bus drivers, even as more buses are added ahead of schedule as part of a $1.1 billion service enhancement programme, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The Government has accelerated its roll-out of the programme, with the bulk of buses due by the end of next year, well ahead of the 2016 deadline.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told reporters yesterday that nearly half of the 550 buses committed under the programme have been put on the roads since its launch last year, with another 200 to come by the end of next year.

Operators SBS Transit and SMRT have also separately added more than 60 buses in total over the same period.

Even so, the LTA noted that both operators continue to recruit new drivers aggressively.

Mr Lui had earlier called for a "concerted and sustained effort" to recruit enough new drivers and retain existing ones to ramp up capacity over the next few years.

SMRT now has more than 2,100 drivers. It operates about 25 per cent of the public bus fleet.

It said that since the launch of the programme, 450 bus drivers have been hired as of Aug 31.

Its spokesman said it expects to hire about 300 more drivers from now until next March. She added: "In efforts to meet the increasing demand for bus captains, we have beefed up our recruitment efforts both locally and abroad."

SMRT is looking to hire more part-time drivers and is working with the community development councils, NTUC and the Employment and Employability Institute or e2i, to widen its recruitment network, she added.

The operator also intends to widen its search for drivers in Malaysia and China, and continue organising recruitment drives in Singapore and the region.

SBS Transit senior vice-president for corporate communications Tammy Tan said it now has more than 5,800 drivers, a 4.2 per cent increase over last year.

She said SBS Transit expects to recruit another 400 more bus drivers by the end of next year. "With the increase in the number of buses being added, another 40 more fleet maintenance staff have also been recruited since the start of the year," she added.

ROYSTON SIM