Demand exists for premium buses on level playing field

Passengers boarding premium bus services.
Passengers boarding premium bus services. PHOTO: ST FILE

As the largest premium bus operator in Singapore, running 16 premium bus services, we understand some of the views of our industry peers, and offer an additional perspective to the situation ("Premium buses hit bump"; Tuesday).

First, the situation is not so dire, as there are still many newly developed and developing residential zones in Singapore that are underserved by such bus services.

These untapped pockets of commuters have yet to be presented with any premium bus service or City Direct service routes that could serve them at their estate and/or workplace. Examples include new estates in Choa Chu Kang and Tampines.

Second, the entire situation could be better managed if the Land Transport Authority (LTA) would allow both City Direct and new premium bus services plying the Central Business District (CBD) vicinity to call at some of the popular bus stops, such as One Raffles Quay and International Plaza along Anson Road.

Currently, only City Direct buses are allowed to call at these CBD bus stops. This poses additional disadvantage to premium bus service operators, who are already facing reduced riderships due to City Direct charging a lower fare.

Given that City Direct services are also operated by private bus operators, a conflicting and confused message is sent to commuters as to why only selected services are allowed to call at certain bus stops.

Since the LTA's position on the provision of premium bus services is dependent on market demand and commercial considerations, we urge the LTA to consider allowing new premium bus services to call at these popular bus stops.

Doing so is crucial to the viability and attractiveness of the service, as premium bus services are supposed to connect residents from their home to their workplace, with minimal walking required.

If there are site constraints, the LTA could consider improving infrastructure by extending bus bays.

In doing so, the LTA can create a level playing field for private bus companies to support the current nationwide bus service network.

This will help to ensure that commuting by bus becomes the de-facto choice for the workforce in Singapore - providing answers to sustainability and traffic congestion.

Pang Kok Leong
Managing Director
Commute Solutions Group

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2016, with the headline 'Demand exists for premium buses on level playing field'. Print Edition | Subscribe