Transparent shields for bus drivers under consideration

National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong checking out a transparent shield that is being explored as a means to separate bus drivers from commuters. The union's other safe distancing measures include separators on tables at i
National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong checking out a transparent shield that is being explored as a means to separate bus drivers from commuters. The union's other safe distancing measures include separators on tables at its canteens.PHOTOS: NATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS' UNION
National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong checking out a transparent shield that is being explored as a means to separate bus drivers from commuters. The union's other safe distancing measures include separators on tables at i
National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong checking out a transparent shield that is being explored as a means to separate bus drivers from commuters. The union's other safe distancing measures include separators on tables at its canteens (above).PHOTOS: NATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS' UNION

Commuters on buses may soon find themselves separated from drivers by a transparent shield, as new initiatives are being explored to ensure safe distancing on buses when the economy gradually reopens.

The shield would offer protection for both commuters and drivers as more people rely on public transport to return to work.

With Singapore exiting the circuit breaker period from June 2, there is a need to manage the anticipated increase in daily public transport ridership, said NTUC assistant secretary-general and National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) executive secretary Melvin Yong in a blog post yesterday.

In a post that recapped the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on front-line transport workers, Mr Yong noted that a similar Perspex shield had been trialled in 2018.

Another move to keep workers safe has been to erect separators on tables at NTWU canteens in bus depots and interchanges so they can eat without worrying about being too close to others.

However, the issue of safe distancing on MRT trains and buses remains a challenge, Mr Yong said.

"While there are currently safe distancing stickers placed on MRT and bus seats, we have to expect that they might not work well once the vehicle gets crowded during peak hours.

"Some bus captains have feedback that they are concerned that it will be challenging to manage commuters' expectations and safe distancing measures, whilst having to focus on driving at the same time."

Mr Yong hoped the Land Transport Authority would assess the relevance of the stickers as more people begin to commute again.

He noted that a more practical approach would be for employers to stagger working hours, and allow telecommuting whenever possible, to reduce peak-hour crowds, as well as the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 cases in the community.

These initiatives are being discussed on top of the current measures, which include bus drivers being provided with masks, face shields and sanitisers, as well as enhanced cleaning measures.

Last week, taxi giant ComfortDelGro Corp said it will fit 400 of its 10,000 cabs with plastic shields to separate the driver from passengers in a trial.

As the economy reopens, Mr Yong said, commuters should expect the guidelines for travelling on public transport to evolve.

"I hope that commuters will be patient and follow the instructions from our public transport workers to ensure a safe commute for all. Let us continue to stay united as a nation and show our support to our front-line transport workers," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 24, 2020, with the headline 'Transparent shields for bus drivers under consideration'. Print Edition | Subscribe