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Government contracting model will offer better bus services: Lui

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew says the new government contracting model will allow more bus operators to enter the market, to raise the level of competition.

SINGAPORE: Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew says the new government contracting model for the public bus industry will provide better service for commuters, with the possible introduction of more bus operators to raise the level of competition.

In a Facebook post headlined "Why bus contracting?", Mr Lui said the plan was first mooted in the Land Transport Master Plan in 2008.

He said since then, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been studying this carefully, visiting cities with bus contracting models such as London and Australia.

Mr Lui himself visited London and was briefed by officials at Transport for London and bus operator Metroline.

"I could see that the commuters there enjoy enhanced bus services over time under this bus contracting model because the operators need to compete for the right to run the bus services. This has kept them on their toes," Mr Lui recounts.

Mr Lui says when he took over in 2011, his immediate priority was to expand bus capacity as quickly as possible. That's why his ministry introduced the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) funded by the Government in 2012.

This was subsequently expanded to 1,000 buses operated by incumbent public transport operators.

Mr Lui says the transport ministry is now ready to move beyond BSEP by restructuring the public bus industry.

This will enable them to respond more speedily to changes in ridership patterns and commuter needs. 

Mr Lui says more bus operating companies, including foreign ones, can enter now enter the market.

But he warned: "Any changes to a system that we've been running for many years means that there will be adjustments needed at various levels and possibly some transitional issues."

He says his ministry will pay careful attention during implementation of the changes to minimise inconvenience to commuters. To achieve a smoother transition, they will implement bus contracting in phases over several years. 

Mr Lui also gave assurance that the welfare and interests of bus workers would be well taken care of.

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