Little India Riot COI: Operator of private bus services want fleet restored

The operator of private bus services that ferry workers back to their dormitories from Little India hope the authorities will reinstate the number of buses allowed to ply the route.

This after the fleet was halved and pick-up time reduced from between 2pm and 11pm, to 2pm and 9pm on Sundays, as part of the cooling measures introduced after the Dec 8 riot in the Indian enclave.

Representatives from the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA), which run the service, told the Committee of Inquiry on Friday that they are having difficulty getting workers queuing up for their buses to board by the 9pm cut-off time.

The operators usually spend up to 45 minutes more before the waiting area along Tekka Lane is cleared.

"Some of these foreign workers do not follow our buses down to Little India, (but) when they go back, the numbers are definitely more than the people we ferry to Little India," said the SSTA's Tan Jwee Tuan. "If we were to continue to limit the number of buses that can ply there (and) the buses can't cope, I think we will agitate the workers."

Mr Tan, who supervises the three bus timekeepers at Tekka Lane, said crowds swells to between 500 and 800 workers when the clock ticks close to 9pm. That means that buses have to continue ferrying passengers till about 9.45pm, at least. The problem is made worse because some bus drivers do not return to Little India if they think they will arrive after 9pm, and opt to go home.

Mr Tan, who is also the supervisor of timekeeper Wong Geck Woon, who was injured on the night of the riot, said timekeepers had to be firm in dealing with the large crowds, and had to raise their voice to get workers standing on the road to move aside in order for buses to enter the boarding area at Tekka Lane.

"I can only say if you employ a female staff who is quite soft-spoken, it will be a big problem."

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