Private bus company to operate two late-night services from Jan 27

Private bus charter company A&S Transit is launching its new night bus services to cater to the recovering nightlife scene. PHOTO: A&S TRANSIT

SINGAPORE - Commuters heading home late at night will have more transport options from Friday, as two new private bus services are set to ply one-way routes from the city to the heartland during the wee hours on Fridays, Saturdays and the eve of public holidays.

Private bus charter company A&S Transit’s new night bus services will help to fill a void that was left by the discontinuation of the NightRider and Nite Owl bus routes, which were run by public transport operators SMRT and SBS Transit before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

The public night bus services were initially suspended in April 2020 due to the spread of the coronavirus here. They were later discontinued in June 2022, with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) citing low ridership, the availability of alternative transport modes and financial prudence as factors.

A&S Transit said it is launching its new night bus services – named NS-1 and NS-2 – to cater to the recovering nightlife scene. The new bus services also provide a low-cost transport alternative to commuters, who would otherwise have to travel by taxi or private-hire car after the MRT and regular bus services stop operating, the company added.

The new night bus services will both start plying from the bus stop opposite the MAS Building in Shenton Way.

NS-1 will pass through the Central Business District (CBD), Clarke Quay, River Valley, Orchard Road and Little India, stopping at public bus stops along the way. It will then pass through Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang before ending in Punggol at the bus stop near Samudera LRT station.

NS-2 will similarly pass through the CBD, Clarke Quay and Orchard Road, before hitting bus stops in Newton, Yishun and Sembawang. The service will end in Woodlands at the bus stop outside Woodlands Train Checkpoint.

Buses for the two new services will operate at 45-minute intervals, with the first bus leaving Shenton Way at 11.30pm and the last bus leaving at 2.30am.

More bus trips may be scheduled on the eve of public holidays.

In comparison, SMRT’s six NightRider services previously operated at 20- to 30-minute intervals, while SBS Transit’s six Nite Owl services operated at 40-minute intervals.

A&S Transit said it will charge a flat fee of $4.50 for passengers who pay using ez-link cards. Those who pay by cash will be charged $5, and will need to provide the exact amount to the bus driver.

These fares are similar to those of the NightRider services, which used to cost $4.50 regardless of payment method.

The Nite Owl services were slightly cheaper at $4.40 for bus rides from the city, and $1.70 for trips between public housing estates.

A&S Transit told The Straits Times that its NS-1 and NS-2 services will each be served by three MAN A22 diesel buses that the company acquired from SMRT in 2021. Each bus has a seating capacity of 43 passengers, with no standing passengers allowed.

A total of 10 bus drivers will be deployed to operate the two services, A&S Transit said. “We do hope to hire more young bus captains to come on board specifically for these two routes,” the company added.

A&S Transit’s NS-1 and NS-2 services will each be served by three MAN A22 diesel buses that the company had acquired from SMRT in 2021. PHOTO: A&S TRANSIT

LTA previously said that the decision to discontinue the NightRider and Nite Owl bus services came after careful evaluation of various factors, including ridership.

Demand for the public night bus services was low even before the pandemic, LTA had said, and the withdrawal of the services would free up finite resources that could then be reallocated to meet new demand.

When asked by ST, LTA did not provide specific ridership figures for the NightRider and Nite Owl services, nor did it say how much the public night bus services had cost to operate.

ST also asked A&S Transit about the financial viability of its new night bus routes, given the previously low ridership for similar services.

In response, the company said it expects to break even within six months. This is despite fuel and manpower costs rising by 70 per cent due to recent inflation, the company added.

An A&S Transit spokesman said the company had done research before deciding on the two new routes, which are targeted at newer estates with potentially higher demand while still serving less accessible areas.

“We still have much to learn and improve upon, as this is our first foray into night bus services,” the spokesman added. “We hope to gather more insights on what the public is looking for in night bus services and to introduce more routes in future,” he said.

LTA told ST that it is open to proposals from commercial transport operators that wish to provide after-hours bus services for certain locations and routes.

Companies that wish to operate a bus service that charges fares and runs on a fixed timetable and route with two or more stops within Singapore are required to apply for a Class 2 Bus Service Licence.

LTA said it has approved A&S Transit’s application for two of these licences, as well as its use of selected public bus stops for immediate pickups and drop-offs.

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