Victorians who take the bus home may have noticed something recently: SBS Transit buses on routes 36 and 43 have been running without the SBS logos on the outside. At the same time, some posters have been mentioning a new bus company in Singapore. After receiving a few questions from students (and teachers), we sent our bus correspondent on the case.
As it turns out, starting from September 2016, routes 36 and 43 will be run by a new company — Go-Ahead Singapore. These routes are undergoing a switch to the Bus Contracting Model, or BCM.
To minimise confusion, we will present to you the frequently asked questions about this takeover.
When will the takeover take place? What services are affected?
Bus services 36 and 43, which pass by VJC, will be run by Go-Ahead. In addition, 2 and 12 are also commonly used by Victorians staying in the East. Victorians taking 2 or 12 to school should also be aware of the change.
On 4 September (the first Sunday of the September break), service 43, alongside a handful of bus routes starting at Punggol, will no longer be run by SBS Transit, and start being operated by Go-Ahead.
On 18 September, service 36 will follow suit, together with bus routes starting at Pasir Ris. As this means that 19 September (the first day of Promos, for J1s) is the second day of Go-Ahead services, Victorians taking these routes to school should plan extra journey time to allow for teething problems. These include long waiting times for buses, or drivers losing their way. The Go-Ahead drivers are also humans after all (many of them are new to bus-driving), and we all make mistakes, so please be patient.
The timeline is as follows:
|4 September||3, 34, 43/43M, 62, 82, 83, 84, 85, 118, 119, 136, 382, 386|
|18 September||2, 6, 12, 15, 17, 17A, 36, 354, 358, 359, 403, 518|
Will there be any change to the bus route?
No, there will be no changes to the bus routes and bus stops. Operating hours will also not change.
Will bus fares go up?
No, bus fares will remain the same even though the company is different. While bus fares will go up over time, they will not do so as a direct result of the takeover by Go-Ahead.
Will the bus frequencies change?
Yes! Service levels should increase because Go-Ahead will be held to higher standards by LTA and will lose money if they do not adhere to these standards:
- 50% or more of bus services with intervals no more than 10 minutes
- All bus services with intervals no more than 15 minutes
- All Feeder Services operating at intervals of 6 to 8 minutes
For comparison, the previous standards were:
- About 30% of bus services with intervals no more than 10 minutes
- All bus services with intervals no more than 30 minutes
This is a staggering improvement. Thus, the introduction of Go-Ahead should be good news for Victorians who rely on the bus system.
Edit: In the short run, due to teething problems, frequencies have gone up, with service 43 recording wait times of about 40–50 minutes. Victorians travelling urgently are advised to plan alternative routes.
What will the buses look like?
The interior of the buses will look exactly the same (Go-Ahead will actually use the same models of buses as SBS Transit). The drivers, however, will be wearing a bright red/yellow uniform.
The buses will be in a mix of colours at first. However, they will eventually all be repainted to the new standard colour for Singapore buses, Lush Green. Most buses will also carry Go-Ahead logos.
1st possibility: “Lush green” (the new standard colour for all Singapore buses)
2nd possibility: White and red (a recruitment advertisement encouraging people to work at Go-Ahead)
3rd possibility: SBS colours with no SBS logos (this is because SBS will be giving up some of their buses to Go-Ahead to operate). These buses will have small black Go-Ahead logos.
4th possibility: White front and back with sides in SBS colours (long story).
At the initial stage, to avoid confusion, always pay careful attention to the electronic number display. Go-Ahead’s electronic display style looks like this:
What does the Bus Contracting Model mean?
The BCM is the programme which allowed Go-Ahead to enter the Singapore market.
Previously, the 2 bus companies SBS Transit and SMRT simply applied for licenses to operate bus services and operated as private companies, earning revenue from fares and spending it to buy buses, etc.
Under the new BCM, the government (LTA) will own all assets such as buses and interchanges, and leases them to firms. Firms bid for the right to run the bus services in one particular area for 5 years. All fare revenue goes to LTA, and the firm will receive fixed payment for operating the bus services, so the company need not worry about making money from fares. In this case, Go-Ahead won the contract for Pasir Ris and Punggol, and will run bus services for five years. (Tower Transit won a contract earlier this year and already operates buses in Bukit Batok, Clementi and Jurong East.)
This is the reason why service standards are expected to improve in the long run — Go-Ahead stands to lose money if they do not deliver.
Thus, the introduction of Go-Ahead should be good news to Victorians. At the end of the day, though, many students we spoke to had more prosaic concerns. “Doesn’t matter what colour is the bus, or who’s the one driving,” said Tay Xiong of 16S54.
“As long as the bus comes, can already.”
Ryan Ch’ng, 16S47
For more details on the Bus Contracting Model, refer to this LTA page. We think it makes for a useful Economics case study, but check with your tutor for advice.