SINGAPORE: Bus drivers from public transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT were on Wednesday (Sep 21) deployed to temporarily assist Go-Ahead Singapore, after the new bus operator found itself short of staff less than three weeks after launching its services.
A total of 30 SBS Transit drivers have been deployed at Loyang Bus Depot to operate services 358 and 359, while SMRT has sent 10 drivers to help the new public bus operator.
UK-based operator Tower Transit has also been engaged to supply a staff bus service for Go-Ahead employees at Loyang Bus Depot, both operators confirmed with Channel NewsAsia. Responding to queries, Go-Ahead on Wednesday said the move will allow the company “to optimise its existing pool of bus captains” and “focus on serving its commuters”.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) confirmed that it is aware of the arrangement between Tower Transit and Go-Ahead. “This is a commercial arrangement between the operators,” an LTA spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia. “Both Tower Transit's and Go-Ahead's services are unaffected by this arrangement.”
Earlier, Go-Ahead said in a media release that it requested for help as there was a “higher-than-expected staff attrition” as well as the “fine-tuning of its schedules”. The short-term sub-contracting arrangement between SBS Transit and SMRT will last about two months, while the arrangement with Tower Transit – which started from over last weekend – is expected to last for a month.
Go-Ahead added that it has 38 bus drivers due to enter service over the coming weeks and has also been “actively sourcing for and recruiting” more drivers. “This move is about ensuring commuters continue to receive a service they can rely on,” said Go-Ahead deputy chairman David Cutts.
According to a transport enthusiast who spoke to Channel NewsAsia on the condition of anonymity, “a number of bus captains” operating at Punggol Bus Interchange tendered their resignation on Sep 4 as they are "not used to the new operating system of Go-Ahead”. He said bus captains complained of “minimal breaks” in their roster compared to when they were in SBS Transit.
A Go-Ahead bus driver, who only wanted to be identified as Mr Tng, had not heard about the shortage of staff but said it did not come as a surprise to him. "Of the 100 people who join, usually only 30 would stay," said the 55-year-old former SBS Transit bus driver, when Channel NewsAsia visited the depot in Loyang on Tuesday evening. "This is not an easy job. At first, many would join but they soon realise that it's tough."
Another Go-Ahead driver, Mr Indra, suggested that the company up its salary by S$100 to S$200 to retain staff. In July, the company increased its starting salary to S$1,950, up from the S$1,865 offered in February.
Go-Ahead officially began operating its 24 services on Sep 4 under the new bus contracting model, and serves areas including Pasir Ris, Punggol, Changi, Tampines, Bedok and Sengkang. Go-Ahead is the second foreign bus operator in Singapore after Tower Transit, which runs the Bulim bus package in the West.
In a separate statement, the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) said it is working closely with Go-Ahead, SBS Transit, SMRT and the Land Transport Authority to support Go-Ahead's manpower needs in the interim.
Said NTWU's executive secretary Melvin Yong: "Our union leaders have been engaging the bus drivers from SBST and SMRT, to address any concerns and queries. NTWU will continue to work closely with the operators to support the bus captains as they start their new work arrangements with Go-Ahead during the interim period."