Transport workers' union calls for more full-day bus lanes, bus shelter extensions

Transport workers' union calls for more full-day bus lanes, bus shelter extensions

Jurong East bus interchange
File photo of buses at a bus interchange in Singapore. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

SINGAPORE: The National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) on Wednesday (Jan 16) announced its recommendations to the Land Transport Master Plan 2040, providing its input on the shape of the future of Singapore's land transport system.

Aimed at ensuring transport workers' interests are taken care of, the union's recommendations focus on enhancing the work environment as well as health and safety of workers, preparing workers for a changing industry and building greater commuter support.

NTWU gathered feedback from public rail and bus workers, culminating in a focus group discussion with about 30 union leaders and transport workers last Wednesday. 

It then submitted its recommendations to the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 advisory panel.

READ: ‘45-minute city, 20-minute towns’: Advisory panel outlines vision for Land Transport Master Plan 2040

Among other things, the union recommended extending bus shelters to tackle the "rain curtain" issue, "so that bus captains (and commuters) do not get drenched" when assisting commuters in wheelchairs or with strollers while it is raining.

The union also proposed that roadworks be confined to non-peak hours - particularly along bus lanes - and that more full-day bus lanes as well as dedicated lanes for cyclists be implemented.

This would allow bus captains to run bus services "smoothly, efficiently and according to schedule", said NTWU. 

It added that cyclists should not cycle on bus lanes as the lanes are not wide enough to provide a safe distance between the bus and the cyclist.

It also proposed that the plan explore ways to increase the number of parking lots at existing bus interchanges and introduce halfway-buses (that depart from depots) to cater to the more than 1,000 buses added under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme, as inadequate parking lots at various interchanges often mean that bus captains have to wait longer than usual to park their buses, eating into their breaks.

BUILDING GREATER COMMUTER SUPPORT

Meanwhile, the union proposed building greater commuter support to promote a "better travelling environment for all".

"Occasionally, our workers would encounter difficult or unreasonable commuters who flout the rules, for example (by) evading fares, eating on trains, or parking indiscriminately at bus stops," said the union. 

"Some have suffered verbal abuse or are physically assaulted when doing their job."

"Such incidents should not happen and the union takes a serious view of every abuse case against our workers."

In light of these incidents, the union recommended more be done to promote respect for public transport workers and enhance public awareness of their work.

It also proposed building a community of "commuter volunteers", who can be trained as first responders to assist frontline workers during service disruptions or emergencies.

HEALTH AND SAFETY, JOB TRANSFORMATION

The union also proposed various recommendations to ensure the safety and health of transport workers.

These include considering the "consequential impact on the workload, stress and fatigue levels of workers" when setting and reviewing service standards, harmonising safety standards across public transport operators, and ensuring better ventilation and visibility in underground tunnels.

In addition, the union also called for measures to ensure workers are prepared for transformation in the industry in light of disruptive technologies such as on-demand services and autonomous vehicles.

It proposed including training as part of tender requirements for the acquisition of new systems and assets and the establishment of training committees made up of union leaders and management staff at company level to plan for worker training.

It also proposed setting up a tripartite working committee on the ongoing trials of autonomous buses to "better manage the transition of affected workers" if these buses are implemented.

In August 2018, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) launched a public engagement exercise to canvass feedback on the masterplan.

The Land Transport Master Plan 2040 advisory panel will make its recommendations to the Government by mid-February.

Source: CNA/nc(rw)

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