berthahenson

Even more bus fuss

In News Reports on March 12, 2014 at 4:11 am

I’ve said it before that I think Mr Lui Tuck Yew is pretty luckless to be landed the transport portfolio. Now I’m beginning to think he’s trying to turn his luck around by running the transport system.

To hear him talk about what the train operators should do about morning rush hours and when they should repair trains or withdraw them, you’d think he was speaking like their CEO. In fact, he’s done them the favour of telling them what to do metinks.

A hands-on minister is pretty good. We all want to see them at work but now I’m wondering if the fussing over bussing is, to use that over-used phrase, a step in the right direction – or a bridge too far.

So that $1.1billion bus enhancement programme is going to be enhanced. From 450 buses, we will now have 1,000. Bus routes will double too. That $1.1 billion to be spread out over 10 years is not going to be enough. Mr Lui didn’t say how much more but some people have pegged it at more than $2b. That seems to be the case since the original $1.1 billion was intended to run – and maintain – the original 550 buses for 10 years.

Sheesh. As if no one choked over the $1.1b announced two years ago…

Now Mr Lui keeps stressing that fares will not go up because of this as the money is coming from the G. Actually, he should have said the money is coming from taxpayers, that is, people like you and me. He also stressed that this wasn’t a subsidy for the transport companies, which weren’t making money from the bus business, but a subsidy for commuters. In fact, revenue from using these buses goes straight back to that $1.1 billion fund. According to ST, these extra state-funded buses have brought in $7million since they went on the road in September 2012. This figure will grow – so maybe we won’t have to spend $2 billion?

Seems to me that if the G/taxpayers have to pump in so much money to buy and maintain buses and expand the number of routes, then the transport operators are pretty useless. But I suppose we need their bus bays and mechanics and they have to recruit drivers. So they take care of the HR and infrastructure side of the bus business. Which means that really, why don’t the G just take over and contract them in some way to run the system, like in London.

Now, ST’s Christopher Tan said in his column today that “Yesterday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew gave the strongest commitment yet that the Government will move towards competitive bus tendering. Good news indeed.’’

Trouble is, I can’t find any such “commitment’’ in any thing I have read so far. MPs were reported asking questions such as whether enough drivers will be trained or whether these extra buses will lead to congestion. Shouldn’t the more critical question be whether the entire loss-making bus service system needs an overhaul?        

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