New operator Go-Ahead rolls into Punggol

Go-Ahead Singapore, the island's fourth bus operator, launched its first services at the Punggol temporary bus exchange yesterday. It took over routes run previously by SBS Transit.
Go-Ahead Singapore, the island's fourth bus operator, launched its first services at the Punggol temporary bus exchange yesterday. It took over routes run previously by SBS Transit.ST PHOTOS: AZMI ATHNI
Go-Ahead Singapore, the island's fourth bus operator, launched its first services at the Punggol temporary bus exchange yesterday. It took over routes run previously by SBS Transit.
Go-Ahead Singapore, the island's fourth bus operator, launched its first services at the Punggol temporary bus exchange yesterday. It took over routes run previously by SBS Transit.ST PHOTOS: AZMI ATHNI

British-based company starts 13 bus services; 11 more to be launched in 2 weeks' time

The island's fourth bus operator, Go-Ahead Singapore, hit the roads yesterday, with the launch of 13 bus services in Punggol.

The British-based company took over routes run previously by SBS Transit, under a new government contracting model aimed at raising service standards for bus commuters.

It is the second foreign player to enter the market, following Anglo-Australian Tower Transit, which started operations in May.

At 5.15am, service 82 departed the Punggol temporary bus interchange with Go-Ahead Singapore's first passengers, including the company's own senior staff and representatives from the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU), who were led by its executive secretary Melvin Yong.

One of the passengers, Madam Asmah Haron, 55, a kitchen helper, said Go-Ahead's service ran smoothly.

She added: "The bus left the interchange earlier at 5.15am, instead of 5.30am before the service changed hands, which means I can get to work earlier."

Last November, Go-Ahead - the biggest bus operator in London with a 25 per cent market share in the English capital - clinched a government tender to run 25 bus routes in Pasir Ris and Punggol, called the Loyang package.

It put in a bid of $497.7 million for five years, meaning Go-Ahead will run the services for five years for that amount of money from the Government.

Under the government contracting regime, which the whole industry transited to last Thursday, the State owns all assets and infrastructure. Operators, which are paid a fee to run routes, have to meet service standards, such as ensuring buses arrive regularly.

Along with service 82, Go-Ahead took over 12 other routes yesterday.

In two weeks' time, it will launch 11 more services. An additional service, with route details to be announced later, will be launched next year.

Go-Ahead Singapore has deployed 180 buses, driven by 290 bus captains, for its first phase of services.

This will be boosted to a fleet of about 400 buses, with more than 700 bus captains, as it expands operations.

Mr Yong said the NTWU has been working closely with the operator to help bus captains through the transition. Among its 700 drivers, 329 are from SBS Transit and driving the affected routes, and have chosen to join Go-Ahead.

Yesterday morning, it was observed that some buses were delayed by up to five minutes in leaving the interchange.

Go-Ahead Singapore's managing director Nigel Wood said: "It could be a technical problem with the (bus) software... We have two spare buses - we put them in when the bus is late, to make sure the passengers' journeys are not affected."

Still, commuters were mostly pleased with the new operator.

Madam Wong Y.Y., 74, a cook, who took service 85, said: "The bus was about to leave the bus stop, but the driver waited for me to board. That was very kind."

Mr Jerry Lee, 37, a logistics executive, who rode service 3, quipped: "The buses being used are newer and more comfortable. But that 'new vehicle' smell takes some getting used to."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'New operator Go-Ahead rolls into Punggol'. Print Edition | Subscribe