Coronavirus: Weathering the storm

Handouts worth $23m for private bus operators

Bus operators will also be granted a nine-month waiver of Class 2 Bus Service Licence fee amounting to $200,000.
Bus operators will also be granted a nine-month waiver of Class 2 Bus Service Licence fee amounting to $200,000.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Private bus operators left out of last month's transport-specific support package will get handouts worth $23 million.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday these operators - who have been reeling from a drying up of tourist arrivals - will be granted a one-year road tax rebate. Benefiting some 5,000 operators of 13,500 vehicles, it amounts to $12 million.

Operators will also be granted a nine-month waiver of the Class 2 Bus Service Licence fee amounting to $200,000. Those who have paid the fee for this year will get refunds of about $750 each. Mr Heng added that a six-month waiver of parking charges at government-managed parking facilities will be granted.

In total, these measures add up to $23 million.

Self-employed operators can apply for an income relief scheme. Those eligible will receive $1,000 a month for nine months.

Bridging loans to help owner-operators with instalment payments for their vehicles will also be enhanced. Up to $5 million in bridging loans (up from $1 million previously), with interest capped at 5 per cent per annum and a maximum tenure of five years, will be granted. A one-year deferment of principal repayment may also be granted.

Under the Training Support Package, operators who send their staff for selected courses from April 1 to Dec 31 will receive an enhanced Absentee Payroll at 90 per cent of hourly basic salary (capped at $10 per hour), and an enhanced course fee support at up to 90 per cent of course fees.

Private bus operators told The Straits Times last month that their daily takings had plunged by as much as 90 per cent. Several signed a petition this month and met MPs to voice their concerns.

Mr James Neo, 44, founder and chief executive of van-pooling platform GetVan, said: "I am glad that the Government empathises with the plight of independent private-hire bus drivers and operators. I believe that it will continue to respond well to what lies ahead."

 
 

Mr Vejayan Santhirasegaran, 46, who owns two buses under Blue Diamond Limousine, said: "It will be good if the Government could also look into reducing ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) rates, deferment of vehicle loan instalments for few months, and stop repossessing buses for owners who have had a good history."

He said repossessing buses "results immediately in loss of jobs for employed drivers... affecting families with children to feed".

Christopher Tan

Read Mr Heng's full speech here.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2020, with the headline 'Handouts worth $23m for private bus operators'. Print Edition | Subscribe