Singapore's newest bus operator, Tower Transit, has filled 80 per cent of its 750 bus captain positions.
Some 320 individuals who have joined the operator are existing drivers on 26 services from the Jurong East, Bukit Batok and Clementi interchanges under the Bulim Package that Tower Transit won.
Of the other 300 new recruits, around 45 drivers are from incumbent operators on other routes who decided to make the switch.
Tower Transit's managing director Andrew Bujtor said the rest are new to the job which "goes against what we've been seeing in Singapore's bus industry where, traditionally, a key challenge has been attracting new, local talent".
He added that currently, Singaporeans make up 70 per cent of the firm's total workforce. "That's indicative of a changing attitude among locals towards a profession that's starting to be recognised for its importance."
London-based Tower Transit won an inaugural government bus contract in May that will see it take over the running of the Bulim Package progressively from the second quarter of next year.
These routes are currently run by SBS Transit and SMRT, using a total of 484 drivers.
Mr Bujtor hopes "that three quarters or more (of the affected drivers) will join us before the end of the year".
Under tripartite guidelines, Tower Transit must offer affected drivers a job on terms no worse than the ones they are currently on.
The firm will start training its bus captains next month. A group of 66 new hires who have just a Class 3 driving licence will go through a fully sponsored training programme to equip them with the Class 4A licence needed.
Tower Transit had said last month that it will offer a startingmonthy basic wage of $1,865 to Singaporean bus captains. But the monthly gross pay can go up to $3,000 with add-ons for meeting performance incentives, such as safe driving, and overtime of about 10 hours a week.
This is about 5 to 15 per cent higher than that offered by the existing operators SBS Transit and SMRT.
Non-Singaporean bus captains at Tower Transit will get a starting basic pay of $1,350 a month.
SMRT said on Monday that it will offer cash incentives ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 to its staff who successfully refer people to various positions including bus captains.
From now till April, new SMRT bus captains and trainers will receive $2,000 as a sign-on bonus.