New bus operator Go-Ahead short of drivers

Go-Ahead, which began operations about two weeks ago, said a number of bus captains - fewer than 20 - had left because of "the steep learning curve" of its interlining model, which requires them to drive at least two different routes a week.
Go-Ahead, which began operations about two weeks ago, said a number of bus captains - fewer than 20 - had left because of "the steep learning curve" of its interlining model, which requires them to drive at least two different routes a week.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Go-Ahead in loan arrangements with SBST, SMRT Buses after being hit by spate of resignations

A little over two weeks since Singapore's newest bus operator began operations, it has found itself short of drivers, hit by an unexpected spate of resignations.

Go-Ahead announced yesterday that it had entered "short-term sub-contracting arrangements" with SBS Transit and SMRT Buses whereby the two would loan the British firm their drivers.

Go-Ahead, which rolled out its second tranche of bus services and took over management of the Pasir Ris Bus Interchange on Sunday, said a number of bus captains - though fewer than 20 - had left because of "the steep learning curve" of its interlining model, which requires them to drive at least two different routes a week.

From today, SBS Transit will deploy 30 bus captains to drive bus services 358 and 359, currently operated by Go-Ahead from Loyang Depot, for two months.

They were all new to the public bus industry, said a spokesman, who added that the firm has scaled back interlining and adjusted the working schedules of its bus captains.

From today, SBS Transit will deploy 30 bus captains to drive bus services 358 and 359, currently operated by Go-Ahead from Loyang Depot, for two months.

The fourth bus operator here will also be getting 10 bus captains from SMRT Buses.

A spokesman for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it had approved the arrangement.

"LTA will work with Go-Ahead, SBS Transit and SMRT Buses to ensure that commuters continue to be provided with regular bus services while Go-Ahead actively recruits more bus captains," she added.

Go-Ahead currently has 38 bus captains who are undergoing training and will begin driving in the coming weeks, and is actively sourcing 50 more to sustain its service levels.

"This move is about ensuring commuters continue to receive a service they can rely on. I am grateful to SBS Transit and SMRT Buses for their support and we will work towards recruiting and training more bus captains so as to take care of the journeys of commuters," said Go-Ahead Singapore deputy chairman David Cutts.

In a Facebook post, National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong said that the union was working closely with the bus operators to "support the bus captains" as they began their new work arrangements with Go-Ahead.

"Our union leaders have been engaging the bus drivers from SBST (SBS Transit) and SMRT, to address any concerns and queries," he said.

In response to queries, SBS Transit spokesman Tammy Tan said: "The welfare of commuters is always important. We will therefore assist as long as we are able to, while ensuring that we do not compromise the quality of our own services."

SMRT Buses declined comment.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng noted that Tower Transit, which won the first government bus tender, has not faced problems in holding on to its staff despite offering a pay package similar to Go-Ahead's.

"It's not just about the salary," he added.

He said Go-Ahead should have foreseen the shortfall earlier, adding that the firm would now have to work harder to attract new drivers.

Dr Lee said the news could also affect any future bids by Go-Ahead for public transport tenders by the Government, including the third tender for 26 routes operating out of the upcoming Seletar Bus Depot, which closes on Oct 6.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'New bus operator short of drivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe