It’s third time for both, but penalties lighter this time as performances have improved
By Yeo Ghim Lay & Cheryl Ong
PUBLIC bus operators SBS Transit and SMRT Buses have been fined a third time by the Public Transport Council (PTC) for not meeting service standards.
But this time, they received lighter fines after improving their performances.
SBS Transit, which runs 75 per cent of the bus services here, was fined $4,500 because some of its buses were overcrowded, while others did not arrive frequently enough. SMRT Buses was fined $100 for overcrowding on service 925.
The fines are the result of a review that took place from June 1 to Nov 30 last year. Reviews are done every six months.
‘On the whole, both operators have demonstrated their commitment to meet commuters’ expectations and the standards set by the PTC,’ said its chairman, Mr Gerard Ee.
However, the PTC said ‘more improvements can and should be made on headway adherence and passenger loading’.
In the previous review, SBS and SMRT were fined $9,300 and $1,000 respectively. Since then, both operators have pulled up their socks by ensuring that more bus services depart bus interchanges on time.
Service standards require 85 per cent of all trips on each service to leave bus interchanges no more than five minutes from its scheduled frequency every day.
Three SBS services failed to meet this standard in the latest review, down from nine services previously. And none of SMRT’s services flouted this rule, compared with five services in the last review.
SMRT said its better showing was due to the recruitment of more drivers and the addition of 67 new buses.
Both operators also met a new service standard that kicked in on Aug 1 last year: 85 per cent of all feeder services must now run at a frequency of not more than 10 minutes during weekday peak periods.
The PTC said SMRT was able to meet the standard by last August, but SBS required more time as it was short of drivers. The deadline for SBS was pushed to February, and it fulfilled the requirement in January after a recruitment drive.
Despite improving service frequency, both firms are still plagued by overcrowding on some services. Under the standards, buses cannot be more than 95 per cent full during weekday peak periods.
Sixteen SBS services did not meet this goal, while one SMRT service fell short. SBS service 196, which runs between Bedok and Clementi, fared the worst: It was overcrowded on 10 instances.
Commuters who take service 196 regularly told The Straits Times yesterday that they sometimes wait up to 20 minutes for the bus, and even then might not be able to get on as it is crowded.
Student Wang Li, 26, who takes the bus from classes at Robinson Road home to Mountbatten Road, said: ‘I usually try to leave about five or 10 minutes before class ends at 5.30pm to avoid the crowds.’
SBS Transit said yesterday a shortage of bus drivers has contributed to the overcrowding, but added: ‘We have been stepping up the recruitment of bus captains over the last few months, and this should ease the situation somewhat.’