More buses allowed to take workers back to their dorms from Little India, COI told

Restrictions on the number of private buses ferrying workers to and from Little India on Sundays have been kept "fluid" by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into Dec 8 riot was told.

It fact the number of buses have been increasing since quotas were cut by half following the incident last year, said a representative from the Singapore School and Private Hire Bus Owners' Association at the public hearing on Monday.

"The work is still manageable," said Mr Tan Jun How, a committee member of the association - which operates 13 bus routes from Hampshire Road, just a stone's throw away from Tekka Lane where the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA) runs a similar service.

Mr Tan was responding to the State Counsel, who asked if operators were having difficulties accommodating the workers with the reduced bus numbers and shorter operating hours. He said that the LTA has adjusted the bus quota on three different occasions since the restrictions kicked in on Dec 15, "so things are quite fluid (and) it's still okay."

The SSTA, which had two representatives testifying at the COI last Friday, said it hoped the authorities would allow full service to resume, as having fewer buses meant delays in getting all passengers out of Little India on time and congregation of even larger crowds in the area. This, said the SSTA, ran the risk of another incident of unrest.

But Mr Tan told the COI that while his association was allowed to operate only half its 113 buses in the first Sunday after service resumed following the riot, the LTA allowed another eight buses to run, and later revised it up by another six buses during peak periods, such as the first Sunday after payday.

In the most recent revision, another 10 buses were allowed to run trips from the ethnic enclave back to the dormitories, which Mr Tan said was in more demand. "Whether it's 9pm or 11pm... human beings have a tendency of turning up at the last minute," he said, adding that there was always a "sudden surge of passengers" closer to 9pm. But the crowd would usually be cleared by 9.15pm, and occasionally by 9.30pm.

Mr Tan added that the number of police officers and men from the auxiliary police numbers had doubled at the boarding area following the riot, a measure he welcomed. "I think we need police presence to help to control such huge numbers," he said, noting that the association had less than 10 employees to control a crowd of tens of thousands that flow through the area throughout the night.

"I think crowd control is not something we can do," he said.