SINGAPORE - A new bus depot in Seletar was officially opened on Saturday (Jan 27), as SBS Transit expands its bus service network in the Ang Mo Kio and Yishun areas in two months time.
On March 18 and 25 (2018), SBS will take over 12 bus routes from SMRT, as part of a package of 26 bus services it clinched the rights to run through a tender awarded last year (2017).
SBS is the incumbent operator for the other 14 bus services, under what is called the Seletar bus package.
It is the third set of public bus services put up for bidding under the bus contracting model, in which the Government pays a fee to winning operators to run bus services.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan opened the 96,000-square-metre depot along Yio Chu Kang Crescent, which can house close to 530 buses, on Saturday morning.
He was given a tour of the facility's amenities, which include a gym, a rest area with deck chairs, and an air-conditioned canteen with cashless payment options.
SBS Transit chief executive Gan Juay Kiat said in an interview that 925 staff, including 777 bus captains, will run the Seletar bus package,
Mr Gan said SBS had to recruit 150 more drivers for the bus package, which demands higher standards of bus frequency and punctuality under the contract.
"The commuters can expect better headway, and higher reliability in our (bus) services. Because of bus contracting, the standards have gone up," Mr Gan told The Straits Times.
Under the bus contracting model, operators are subject to strict reliability standards, with performance incentives or financial penalties given depending on whether standards are met.
More than 120 bus captains, currently driving for SMRT, will also join SBS in the transition in March.
Mr Gan said that to boost safety, all 390 buses under the Seletar bus package will be equipped with crash avoidance devices and a telematics system, to monitor bus captains' driving habits, such as acceleration, braking and cornering.
The Seletar bus depot is the third depot built by the Land Transport Authority, which owns all bus assets and leases them to operators under the contracting model.
The other two depots in Bulim and Loyang are operated by Tower Transit and Go-Ahead respectively, which won the first two bus contracts.
SBS chief bus captain Joseph Yap, 63, gave the thumbs up to the amenities at the Seletar depot, such as mobile device charging stations, free Wi-Fi, and massage chairs.
"Because of our shifts, we may have long breaks. With the amenities, we won't feel so bored," Mr Yap said in Mandarin.
On Saturday, the public was also given a chance to visit the new depot, as part of a carnival held by SBS.
Mr Jack Ouyang, 31, who takes bus service 133, which is under the Seletar bus package, said the frequency of the service has improved since last year. "During the peak hour, it arrives every six to nine minutes. In the past, it was not so frequent," he added.
But the IT executive, who uses 133 to travel from his home in Serangoon to Suntec Singapore, hoped there could be more buses injected into the route, so they will not be so packed during the peak hours.