Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Singapore's third bus operator Tower Transit launches first 9 services on 29 May 2016

First Tower Transit buses hit the road; bus operator likely to bid in next tender
Singapore's third bus operator set to compete in next tender, likely in June, to run more routes
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 30 May 2016

Even as its first nine bus services started plying the roads yesterday, Singapore's third bus operator, Tower Transit, already has set its eyes on expanding its presence here.

The Anglo-Australian firm, which won the first government bus contract a year ago, said it will compete in an upcoming tender - likely to be held next month - to run more bus routes.

It sat out the previous tender - which was won by British firm Go-Ahead - so as to concentrate on launching its operations here.

"We are very committed to growing our business in Singapore and we will absolutely be bidding for the third bus package," Tower Transit chief executive Adam Leishman told The Straits Times.

He said the firm's attention to customer experience, its engineering capabilities and its success in recruiting locals to become bus captains put it in good stead to contribute to Singapore's transport sector.

Tower Transit's debut on the roads here marks a key step in the restructuring of Singapore's bus industry to raise service standards.

Under the contracting model, operators are subject to stricter reliability standards, with performance incentives or financial penalties given depending on whether standards are met.

Tower Transit Singapore managing director Andrew Bujtor said the firm is "very confident" of meeting these standards, which include regularity in bus arrivals - often a bugbear among commuters here.

Mr Bujtor said a lot of training has been done so that bus captains can coordinate with the operations control centre to regulate bus intervals, to "deliver the consistent gap between buses that passengers desire".

Tower Transit's first nine services - 77, 106, 173, 177, 189, 941, 945, 947 and 990 - operate out of Bukit Batok bus interchange. Next month, it will gradually take over 17 more routes from SBS Transit that are also in the western part of the island.

At around 5.30am yesterday, the first Tower Transit service in Singapore, service 945, left the interchange. It was followed by service 106, which was taken by Mr Leishman, Mr Bujtor and National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong, who is also an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

More than 20 "bus spotters" turned up in Bukit Batok to photograph the first Tower Transit buses arriving from Bulim Bus Depot. These were in lush green, the colour chosen in a public voting exercise.

The firm took over around 90 buses from SMRT and these remained in their original colour scheme. It received 10 buses painted in green from the Government, which owns all assets in the contracting model.

Institute of Technical Education student Muhd Naz Farihin, 19, said: "The arrival of the green buses marks a leap forward in the bus industry to the new contracting model."

Mr Etcoy Alvin Gimao, 35, a welder who takes service 189, said: "I feel that the bus driver is good and the ride was smooth, with less sudden braking."

Few commuters notice difference after switch to Tower Transit
By Aleysa John and Sherry Xuerui Sun, The Straits Times, 31 May 2016

The first weekday of operations for Singapore's new bus operator Tower Transit appeared to go smoothly yesterday, said several commuters.

Among the commuters The Straits Times spoke to, who were travelling to the Central Business District on the operator's services 77 and 106, many said they had not noticed any difference after Tower Transit took over from the previous operator, SMRT. But a few of them noted some improvements.

Tower Transit began operating nine bus services on Sunday. Some commuters did not realise the bus services had changed hands because many of the Anglo-Australian firm's buses were not painted green yet - the colour chosen in a public voting exercise. Only 10 are green in colour. The other buses, around 90, retain SMRT's colour scheme or have advertisements on them.

For commuters like Ms Anne Chua, 25, the buses' colour change was the only feature that stood out.

Said the retail assistant, who took service 106 from Bukit Batok to Lucky Plaza: "If not for the colour change - the bus is now green - I would not even know that the service provider is different."

While Ms Meilina Wijaya, 30, an assistant manager, did not notice significant changes with the new operator, she said Tower Transit's bus driver "seemed more friendly than usual, because he was telling us 'good morning' very cheerfully".

Tower Transit was satisfied with yesterday's operations. Said managing director Andrew Bujtor: "Our bus captains are getting more familiar with the systems and processes. As with any transition, there are some kinks to be ironed out."

The operator said it is too soon to say whether it has met the stricter service standards set under a new government contracting model.

For example, Tower Transit is required to have 50 per cent of its buses operate at intervals of not more than 10 minutes during peak periods. The maximum interval allowed between buses is 15 minutes.

Under current service levels, 30 per cent of buses operate at intervals of 10 minutes, and the maximum interval allowed between buses is 30 minutes.

Some commuters noted greater frequency in Tower Transit's services.

Said Mr Basel Chan, 30, who works in healthcare: "The bus service seems more frequent. When I check the bus timings, (the frequency) is usually five to eight minutes. Now, it is two to five minutes."

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