Singapore's third bus operator, Tower Transit, took another step towards hitting the roads here yesterday when the Bulim Bus Depot was handed over by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
The Jurong depot, which cost $87.5 million to build, is expected to be ready in two months' time and will have rest areas for bus drivers and a fully air-conditioned canteen.
Mr Adam Leishman, chief executive of London-based Tower Transit, said: "The Bulim Bus Depot will not only be a garage for our buses and our base of operations.
"It will be a place where our staff will be well provided for, in comfortable settings that will be extensively outfitted with conducive areas for rest, meals and recreation."
The depot accommodates about 500 buses and is equipped with a refuelling area, and bus repair and maintenance facilities, as well as amenities for drivers.
The LTA said the handover allows Tower Transit to prepare for its operations early, including fitting out the depot and training its bus drivers and technicians.
It will hand over 380 buses, comprising new buses and existing ones being used on the routes by SMRT and SBS Transit, for deployment at a later date.
Tower Transit is expected to begin staff recruitment next month and discussions with the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) on the "finer points" of employment terms are close to completion.
In May, the firm reported that 600 people were keen to join the company. It said yesterday it is continuing to receive interest from jobseekers on its website.
Tower Transit, which put in the third-lowest bid among eight short-listed firms for the tender for the Bulim bus package, was awarded a five-year LTA contract in May.
The contract involves operating the new Bulim depot - off Jurong West Avenue 2 - and 26 bus services from the Jurong East, Bukit Batok and Clementi bus interchanges.
The services, now run by the incumbents, will be progressively transferred to Tower Transit from the middle of next year.
It will need to hire about 700 bus captains - more than the 400 or so existing SBS Transit and SMRT staff whose jobs will be affected when services are transferred to the new operator. If they choose to stay on the same route, they will join Tower Transit, while those who prefer to stay with the incumbents will service other routes.
Their interests remain a key concern of the NTWU and Tower Transit has pledged to offer employment to each affected worker at similar or better terms.
Bus captains on the affected routes told The Straits Times they are ready to move over.
"I am not afraid of change. It might mean a different working environment but I am ready," said a 60-year-old bus driver.
Another driver, who is in his 40s, said: "In any case I will still be doing the same job, but just under a different boss."