Wednesday 28 March 2012

Bigger bus bays, more priority on roads to speed up bus rides

By Royston Sim, the Straits Times, 27 Mar 2012

THE Government hopes to implement more measures to give buses priority on the roads to ensure a smoother, faster journey for commuters.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said yesterday that this will be on top of an ongoing scheme to transform heavily used bus stops into 'bus hubs'.

These 'bus hubs' have extended bays and shelters to allow up to four buses to pull into them simultaneously. Three such hubs are now ready at Bedok Reservoir Road, Woodlands Centre Road and Commonwealth Avenue West.

Another 32 bus stops will be expanded by the end of next year.

Speaking to reporters after visiting the hub next to Block 121, Bedok Reservoir Road, Mr Lui said the extended bus bay had sped up the alighting and boarding of passengers, resulting in time saved.

But he added: 'This cannot be the only measure to improve bus services. You need to do more with regard to Mandatory Give Way, where possible to extend the use of bus lanes, and so on.'

There are currently 155km of normal bus lanes and 23km of full-day bus lanes, as well as 202 bus stops under the Mandatory Give Way to Buses Scheme.

Of this scheme, Mr Lui said: 'Certainly, this is an area that we are looking at, and I would like to see it expanded... in a greater fashion.'

With 550 new buses coming in from the Government's $1.1 billion bus plan and another 250 buses due from the operators, more has to be done to create space for buses to berth and improve journey times, he reiterated.

Transport economist Michael Li from the Nanyang Business School said it makes little sense to add more buses on the road without addressing the real issue of slow bus speeds during peak hours.

Pointing out that priority measures are a quick solution to reduce bus travel times, he said: 'The Government must make some serious decisions on that. To improve bus speeds, you need a network of bus priority lines, and not just on stretches of roads.'

Disruptions: LTA, SMRT reports out next month
Inquiry will also consider police and public input on service breakdowns
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 27 Mar 2012

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) and train operator SMRT will submit reports of their separate investigations on two major train disruptions to the Committee of Inquiry (COI) by early next month, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew.

The panel would take in information from the two reports, its own investigations and input from the public, he said yesterday.

He added that it was best to leave them 'full autonomy to carry out not only the investigation, but the hearing also'.

A spokesman for the COI secretariat said it has received e-mail and letters from 28 people to date over the North-South Line disruptions that occurred on Dec 15 and 17 last year.

The committee will determine the list of witnesses and experts closer to the date, and the duration of the hearing will depend on the number of witnesses and documents produced by LTA, SMRT and the Criminal Investigation Department, the spokesman said.

The hearing, which is open to the public, will begin on April 16 and be held at Court 1 of the Subordinate Courts.

The LTA will be represented at the hearing by Mr Andrew Yeo, head of litigation and dispute resolution at law firm Allen & Gledhill.

Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull of Drew & Napier will represent SMRT.

Separately, tests to determine the cause of a 10-hour disruption on the North East Line on March 15 are ongoing, and results are still pending, Mr Lui said.

The steel cables that snapped near Outram station have been sent to TUV SUD PSB, a Singapore-based testing institute, for investigations.

Mr Lui said: 'That will help us to much better understand what actually happened and, therefore, be able to pinpoint whether there are any shortcomings that need to be addressed.'

He spoke to reporters yesterday morning at Bedok Reservoir Road, where he visited a 'bus hub' - bus stops with extended bays and shelters.

The LTA announced at the event that it had completed upgrading works for three bus hubs four months ahead of schedule.

Apart from the one at Bedok Reservoir Road, two bus stops at Woodlands Centre Road and Commonwealth Avenue West have been lengthened to allow up to three buses in the bay. Each stop could previously fit only two buses at a time.

An LTA spokesman said the time that buses spent queuing at the Bedok Reservoir Road stop has gone down.

She said the longer bays have also eased traffic congestion caused by buses queuing along the road to enter a bus bay, particularly during peak hours.

Four other heavily used bus stops at Upper Serangoon Road, Victoria Street, Yishun Avenue 2 and Marine Parade Road will be expanded by the end of this year, and the remaining 28 are expected to be upgraded by the end of next year to fit up to four buses at a time.

The spokesman said bus hub sizes vary based on space availability and constraints such as pedestrian crossings and road access.

Real-time bus arrival information panels will be installed progressively at these bus hubs from the first quarter of next year to help commuters better manage their travel time.

Based on contracts awarded for seven bus stops, it costs about $150,000 to lengthen the bus bay and install information panels at each stop.

Mr Lui said he would like to have more such bus hubs, but plans are subject to site constraints. There are more than 4,500 bus stops islandwide.

Aside from the bus hub scheme, the LTA will invite 500 commuters to take part in a three-month trial from July this year and provide feedback on a proposed system that provides information on the congestion levels of buses.

It first conducted the trial among its own staff for about three months.

The spokesman said the LTA will evaluate the users' feedback after the trial and fine-tune the system before deciding on islandwide implementation.

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