The tender for the third government bus contract - named the Seletar package - was called yesterday, attracting interest from several companies and consortiums.
The package, named after a new depot being built off Yio Chu Kang Road, comprises 26 bus services - 24 routes currently run by SBS Transit and SMRT, along with two new ones that will be announced later.
The successful bidder will start operating the services in two batches from the first half of 2018, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday. It will be given a fleet of 420 buses initially, expanding to about 500 in 2023.
The services will operate from Ang Mo Kio, Yio Chu Kang and Yishun bus interchanges, and the bus fleet will be based at the Seletar Bus Depot, which is due for completion by the third quarter of next year.
At least five potential bidders have expressed interest in the tender, which closes on Oct 6. They include Anglo-Australian firm Tower Transit, which won the inaugural contract in May last year to operate 26 bus services in the western part of the island for five years. It put in a bid of $556 million.
Mr Andrew Bujtor, managing director of Tower Transit Singapore, said the firm has its sights set on the latest package. "There are significant economies and efficiencies that we can unlock by operating on a larger scale," he said.
British firm Go-Ahead, which clinched the second contract last November with a $497.7 million bid for the rights to 25 bus services in Pasir Ris and Punggol, said it will read the new tender "with interest". Two consortiums which participated previously are also keen. Local firm Travel GSH said it will team up with Chinese company Jiaoyun Group Corp again. A Travel GSH spokesman said: "We have engaged a group of consultants to put together a better proposal."
Tian San Shipping will look to put in a joint bid with South Korea's Kumho Construction & Engineering again. SMRT, which runs 11 of the 24 existing routes, also expressed interest. SBS Transit, which runs the other 13 routes, only said it will assess the tender.
A total of 380 bus captains and 10 bus workers from both companies will be affected by the new contract. Under tripartite guidelines, they have to be offered contracts by the new operator at terms that are no worse off. They may also choose to stay with their own companies and be redeployed, where feasible.
National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong said the union, together with SBS, SMRT and LTA, has conducted more than 10 engagement sessions with the affected staff.
"Through these sessions, we addressed their concerns, clarified their queries, and sought their feedback regarding the latest changes," said Mr Yong, who is also an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.