More buses to ferry workers from Little India

 Foreign workers boarding a bus along Tekka Lane heading for Kranji on 29 Dec 2013. The number of buses ferrying workers from Little India on Sundays, which was cut by half after the riot last December, has been increased to 76 per cent of the f
 Foreign workers boarding a bus along Tekka Lane heading for Kranji on 29 Dec 2013. The number of buses ferrying workers from Little India on Sundays, which was cut by half after the riot last December, has been increased to 76 per cent of the fleet size before the riot. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

Fleet size, which was halved after the riot, up to 76 per cent of its old size on peak Sundays

The number of buses ferrying workers from Little India on Sundays, which was cut by half after the riot last December, has been increased to 76 per cent of the fleet size before the riot.

At Tekka Lane and Hampshire Road, where workers board the buses, facilities such as bus shelters are being built and set to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

Before the riots, 250 to 280 buses plied the routes. Yesterday, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman said the fleet size on peak Sundays - typically the first Sunday after pay day each month - is 76 per cent of what it originally was.

She added that the new facilities being built at the two passenger points will be largely similar to those of a bus terminal.

In addition to sheltered waiting areas, fans and lights will be installed. The grass patch at Tekka Lane has been paved to make it more conducive for foreign workers to queue for the buses, she said. The passenger facilities will cost $3.58 million.

As part of cooling measures after the riot on Dec 8, the authorities suspended the Little India bus services for a week, starting on Dec 15.

When services resumed, they did so with half of the usual number of 250 to 280 buses. Operating hours were also shortened, with services ending at 9pm instead of 11pm.

The fleet size was subsequently increased to 56 per cent and now to about 71 per cent on most Sundays and 76 per cent on peak Sundays.

The spokesman said the LTA will review the bus services “in line with the recommendations of the COI report”.

The Committee of Inquiry had released a report of its probe into the riot on Monday. Its recommendations included installing more lights and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

The two bus associations that run the Little India services said the scene is far more orderly now on Sundays.

Singapore School and Private Hire Bus Owners’ Association president Neo Tiam Beng said the 9pm limit for the services is being enforced by LTA staff and the Police. This is to prevent latecomers from entering the Hampshire Road passenger point.

At Tekka Lane, a permanent fence has been erected around the waiting area. Singapore School Transport Association chairman Wong Ann Lin said this improves safety as it ensures workers do not spill out onto the road.

He hopes the LTA will extend the operating hours again. “It will boost the income of our operators, which has been cut by about half,” he said.

roysim@sph.com.sg