First bus package up for tender; 2 new routes in Jurong East added to original 24

Commuters boarding a bus at Jurong East bus interchange. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has put up the first package of bus routes for tender. -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Commuters boarding a bus at Jurong East bus interchange. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has put up the first package of bus routes for tender. -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has put up the first package of bus routes for tender. There will be 26 bus services serving neighbourhoods in western Singapore, up from the 24 previously announced.

Bus services in this package will operate from Bukit Batok, Jurong East and Clementi interchanges and will be housed in the new Bulim depot. The LTA said the services will end in Bedok, Marina Centre, Shenton Way, Toa Payoh and Boon Lay interchanges or are feeder or loop services. While LTA previously announced the service numbers of the 24 affected routes which includes service numbers 66, 78 and 143, it has yet to release details of the two new routes in this package. It would only say that the two new routes will operate between Jurong East Regional Centre area and neighbouring towns.

The tender opens on Oct 3 and will close on Jan 5 next year. It will be awarded in the second quarter of 2015. The contract length is for five periods with a two year extension if the operator performs well. When implemented from the second half of 2016, the operator will run 380 buses and this will progressively grow to about 500 buses by 2021.

About 12 companies have indicated their interest in bidding for this bus package including Australian bus company Tower Transit and British company Go-Ahead. Local bus operator Woodlands Transport has also expressed interest.

This tender kicks off a massive restructuring of Singapore' public bus industry under the new Government's contracting model, which from 2016 will see the Government owning all buses and infrastructure while paying transport firms a fee to operate the bus routes. All bus services will be grouped into 12 area-based packages and each package will have 300 to 500 buses.

Three packages will be tendered over the next two years and start operations in 2016. The other nine will be run by the incumbents, SBS Transit and SMRT, till they are put up for tender around 2022.

This overhaul, which was first announced in May, is expected to raise service levels amidst greater competition. It will also shorten waiting time for commuters from the current 20 minutes during peak hours to no more than 15 minutes. Feeder services will run at intervals of six to eight minutes, down from 10 to 15 minutes.

Operators will work under an incentive framework where their performance in terms of reliability of services and maintenance of buses will determine whether they are given an annual performance payment or deduction. This is capped at 10 per cent of its annual service fee.

The first bus package will be supported by the new Bulim depot off Jurong West Avenue 2, which will be ready next year. It can accommodate about 500 buses and is equipped with refuelling, maintenance and repair facilities. The second bus package will be ready for bidding early next year, and the third by end 2015.