S$1.1b bus services scheme not for operators' profit: Lui Tuck Yew
Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew on Monday said the implementation details of the S$1.1 billion Bus Services Enhancement Programme (BSEP) to ramp up bus capacity over the next five years have largely been sorted out.
SINGAPORE: Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew on Monday said the implementation details of the S$1.1 billion Bus Services Enhancement Programme (BSEP) to ramp up bus capacity over the next five years have largely been sorted out.
He said this in Parliament, as he proposed the necessary amendments to give the Land Transport Authority (LTA) powers to roll out the programme, in a second reading of the amendment bill.
Under the proposed amendments, LTA will be given a new function to implement programmes, such as the BSEP improve public bus services provided by the public transport operators (PTOs) and other bus operators licensed by the Public Transport Council (PTC).
This includes giving LTA the powers to coordinate the routes and scheduling of bus services provided by the operators.
The BSEP will be supported by the Bus Services Enhancement Fund where LTA can provide loans and grants to operators to purchase buses, and to finance the operating expenditure they incur under the BSEP.
Mr Lui said the first of the 550 buses under the BSEP will go on the roads in September. Details of the new routes and improvements made to existing services will also be revealed then.
The minister said the new buses to be introduced over the next one year will allow service levels to improve for at least one in three existing bus routes and introduce about 14 new routes. He said the PTOs expect to hire about 360 new bus drivers from now until the end of the year.
Mr Lui also said the government will not preclude that the BSEP in its current form may need to be adjusted, supplemented or even replaced, stressing that it is only prudent to allow a legislative flexibility be built in so that the government can respond in a timely manner to any necessary changes.
He also addressed a wide range of concerns raised by members of parliament including the use of tax payers' monies to fund the programme.
Some raised concerns about the potential abuse of funds and wanted to know what sort of accountability will be imposed on operators. Others were also concerned that the operators may deploy the government-funded buses on less profitable routes, while using their own buses on profitable ones.
In his maiden appearance, newly-elected Hougang MP Png Eng Huat added that a clear message should also be sent to operators.
"We must send a message to these operators that it will not be business as usual after the gifting of the 550 additional buses that comes complete with drivers and full maintenance. Because at the end of the day, the commuters should the one smiling and not their shareholders," he said.
Pasir Ris-Pungggol MP Dr Janil Puthucheary said: "Some of these concerns are inflammed as a result of misinformation, some of which may be deliberate. The key points that no profit will be made as a result to the BSEP, that the assistance it provides to the operators will be calibrated and adjusted to ensure this is so needs to be explained and discussed."
Responding to these concerns, Mr Lui assured Parliament that the BSEP was not intended to profit the PTOs.
"I know there are concerns, there are fears, but the way we want to use this money is to make sure the commuters benefit from having more reliable, more frequent, less crowded buses," he said.
"Certainly, the intent is not for this government to give money to the operators in order to fatten their bottom line. Not all all."