Sufficient accommodation for all Malaysian bus drivers, bus services to be slightly affected: Khaw

SMRT bus driver Lim Kheng Toh, who is among the 2,500 Malaysian public transport workers who are staying in Singapore over the next two weeks, has been allocated a room at a hotel in Jurong. PHOTO: SMRT

SINGAPORE - Some public bus services might be slightly affected by Malaysia's lockdown as a number of Singapore's bus drivers and technicians commute from Johor to work here daily, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Tuesday (March 17).

But for those wishing to stay in Singapore and work over the next two weeks of the lockdown, sufficient hotel accommodation has been secured, Mr Khaw wrote in a Facebook post.

Malaysia announced on Monday night it will start a two-week lockdown from Wednesday till end-March as it bids to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The order bars all Malaysians from travelling abroad and bans all foreign tourists and visitors from entering the country.

Mr Khaw said: "As a number of our bus captains and technicians are Malaysians who commute from Johor to work here, we have contingency plans in case their commutes are disrupted. We have now put into practice our contingency plans.

"Train and bus services will not be too much affected, though there may be slight degradation of some bus services. I seek our commuters' understanding."

Mr Khaw said that the four public transport operators here - SBS Transit, SMRT, Tower Transit Singapore and Go-Ahead Singapore - have worked with the National Transport Workers' Union and the Land Transport Authority to secure hotel accommodation for all drivers who wish to stay here and continue working.

"They will be comfortable and able to rest properly," he added.

Public transport operator SBS Transit has secured temporary accommodation at several hotels for its Malaysian bus drivers ahead of a lockdown that will start in Malaysia on Wednesday (March 18).

This will allow bus services to continue as scheduled, it said.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, SBS said: "In view of the latest announcement by the Malaysian authorities, we have secured temporary accommodation at several hotels for our Malaysian bus captains.

"This will take effect immediately to ensure that scheduled bus services are not affected."

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It also said that the bus drivers will not be made to sleep on recliner chairs in its depot, contrary to what was mentioned in an online report.

The Online Citizen had reported earlier on Tuesday that an SBS staff had requested that the affected Malaysian bus drivers sleep on reclining chairs in the resting area of its depots.

SBS said: "We will continue to work with our authorities and monitor the situation as it unfolds. We remain committed to protecting the welfare of both our bus captains and commuters."

SMRT said it has also secured sufficient rooms for all its Malaysian staff and assured commuters it will still continue to operate well.

Meanwhile, Tower Transit said arranging accommodation for their drivers at various hotels in Singapore was a small gesture when compared with all the work they were doing to keep bus services going.

In response to a picture and video circulating on social media of temporary accommodation being set up in Bulim Bus Depot, Tower Transit said the area served as temporary staff housing to let drivers rest while waiting for their hotel accommodations to be finalised.

A note seen by ST signed off by the operator's managing director Winston Toh said the firm had initially told drivers that it would provide beds for them at the depot. There was no mention of a hotel.

A contingency staff housing was set up at the Bulim Bus Depot to let Malaysian drivers from Tower Transit rest while waiting for arrangements to accommodate them in hotels on March 16, 2020. PHOTO: ST READER

The note had said: "The border will close tonight midnight (March 17). Please bring along your belongings and stay in Singapore.

"We will provide bed for you in Bulim Depot."

SMRT bus captain Lim Kheng Toh, 42, who will be staying in a hotel in Jurong, said he was grateful to the operator for the arrangement.

"While I was disappointed that I didn't have more time to go home and make sufficient preparations, I had discussed with my wife and we decided that I should stay with my team and work here in the meantime," he added.

On Monday night, Malaysia announced a movement control order will take effect on Wednesday and last till March 31. The order bars all Malaysians from travelling abroad and bans all foreign tourists and visitors from entering the country.

The Ministry of Manpower has said it is looking into providing financial support for companies that need to urgently house workers affected by Malaysia's two-week movement control order.

It will also work with hotel and dormitory providers to provide lower cost rentals.

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