SBS Transit hiring more controllers to improve bus services

SBS Transit is beefing up the number of controllers monitoring its 3,000 buses.

The bus operator wants to improve the current ratio of one controller per 150 vehicles to one for every 80 by three years' time.

These employees monitor the distance and time intervals between buses when they leave terminals. There are currently 45 bus controllers who work in a daily three-shift pattern.

SBS Transit operates more than 300 of the 400-plus bus routes in Singapore, while SMRT runs the rest.

The former is looking to add 20 more bus controllers by the end of this year.

Mr Johnson Lim, SBS Transit's assistant vice-president for its operations control centre, said the additions will help improve the reliability of services and make sure bus captains get adequate help.

It comes on the back of the Government's moves to put 550 more buses on the road as part of its $1.1 billion Bus Services Enhancement Plan announced last year.

Mr Lim said: "If we have more bus captains to drive more buses, we will need more bus controllers to help guide them to make better decisions on the roads."

The move is also likely to be timed to help SBS Transit, majority-owned by ComfortDelGro, to meet new standards to help improve bus punctuality.

The new Quality Incentive Framework, which is similar to London's "reward and penalty" bus regime, will involve some 25 services. It will give specific targets for operators in terms of bus waiting times at stops.

Currently, SBS Transit's bus controller teams are based in two operations control centres in the western and northern parts of Singapore.

They are in radio contact with bus drivers and will "red flag" those who are too far away from or near each other.

Bus bunching and long gaps between buses have been a perennial bugbear for many commuters here.

While details on Singapore's reward-and-penalise regime have not been announced yet, transport analysts say putting more eyes on the roads is a good first step to improving service.

Transport analyst Gopinath Menon said more attention must be paid to buses that are farther along their journeys.

He said: "Typically, the first quarter of the bus journey would be okay. Buses only start bunching up when they get farther away from the interchange."