Tower Transit first to use LTA system to track buses

Service controllers at the Bulim bus depot operating LTA's new Common Fleet Management System. Tower Transit is the first here to use the system, which tracks buses in real time, and ensures that waiting times are kept as consistent as possible.
Service controllers at the Bulim bus depot operating LTA's new Common Fleet Management System. Tower Transit is the first here to use the system, which tracks buses in real time, and ensures that waiting times are kept as consistent as possible.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

While some commuters living in the west have not noticed much difference since Anglo-Australian firm Tower Transit took over bus services in the area in May, others reckon service has improved.

Tower Transit, which won the first government bus contract a year ago, is now running all 26 bus routes under the Bulim package.

Student Jasmin Yusof, 18, felt that the buses ply more slowly than before, but said waiting time is now shorter. "At least I know I don't have to wait so long for the next bus if I miss one," she said.

Mrs Ong Siow Hua, 33, recalled how a Tower Transit bus driver waited for her to reach the bus even though she was a distance away.

"Previously I think the drivers would have just driven off and left me to wait for the next one, which could take more than 10 minutes sometimes," she said.

"He only spent 20 seconds to wait for me, but he really made my day."

Mr Ananda Selvam, who works in the IT industry, usually takes bus Service 66 to work and said he did not notice the handover initially.

"Some of the buses are still painted in the SBS colours, and the interiors remain unchanged," he said. "But if commuters don't notice anything, it's good because that means things are running smoothly. People will only make noise if something goes wrong."

Tower Transit took over nine bus routes on May 29, another six on June 12, and the final 11 on June 26.

Yesterday, the bus operator showed reporters its Common Fleet Management System. It is the first here to use the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) new system, which tracks buses in real time and indicates services that are experiencing "bunching".

The LTA spent $68 million on the new unified system built by ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems) and Trapeze Switzerland. It will be used by all bus operators from the end of next year.

At the bus operations control centre in Bulim depot, seven service controllers sit before computer terminals with two or more screens, occasionally issuing instructions over the communications system.

Working in shifts, each service controller manages about 50 buses at any one time.

The team of 20 is responsible for ensuring that Tower Transit's fleet of 322 buses runs smoothly, and that waiting times are kept as consistent as possible.

"The scheduled departure times may be adjusted by the service controllers depending on what's happening on the road," said Mr Stuart Thomas, Tower Transit's operations director.

"Waiting time intervals are more important than the fixed timings, for high frequency buses, which account for the majority of our routes," he said. Even so, he added that timetables will still be taken into account, especially for lower frequency services which passengers expect to arrive at specific times.

Mr Andrew Bjutor, managing director of Tower Transit, said the first month of operations had been "very good", but there was always room for improvement.

He added: "We have a wealth of experience that we've gained from the Bulim bus package, and we remain very interested in bidding for the upcoming Seletar bus package."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'Tower Transit first to use LTA system to track buses'. Print Edition | Subscribe