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    Oct 07, 2014

    More buses, less waiting and crowding

    THE billion-dollar Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) is gaining speed, with 450 government-funded buses on the road as of last month - up from 361 buses in end-June.

    These buses now make up just under 10 per cent of Singapore's total public bus fleet of 4,600; and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the cohort will stand at 550 by year end.

    Starting from 2012, the Government partnered bus operators to increase bus capacity and enhance service levels.

    The accelerated fleet expansion was an urgent response to soaring public-transport ridership.

    It has allowed operators to ramp up service frequency, especially during peak hours.

    The LTA said 144 out of 275 existing basic bus services have improved since the BSEP was started two years ago. Besides pumping in additional buses to existing routes, 31 new services have been rolled out - including 10 City Direct services that run more or less parallel to MRT routes.

    Among the new services are SBS Transit services 324 and 386, which were introduced in Hougang and Punggol in the third quarter. They connect commuters to MRT stations and bus interchanges.

    Five more services will be launched in the coming months in Bukit Batok, Changi, Jurong East, Kallang and West Coast.

    As a result of the enhancement programme, the waiting times on popular routes have been shortened by three to seven minutes, the LTA said.

    For example, SMRT Service 966, which loops between Woodlands and Marine Parade, now runs at an improved frequency of four to eight minutes during the morning peak period, and six to 13 minutes during the evening peak period.

    It previously ran at a frequency of six to 10 minutes during the morning peak, and nine to 16 minutes during the evening peak.

    Crowded services have also seen improvements.

    For instance, SMRT bus service 962 has seen peak-hour crowding reduced by about 15 per cent since the programme started.

    Serangoon resident Winston Tan, 53, said there are more bus services now. The finance manager, who works in Alexandra Point, said the buses are also "newer and more comfortable".

    "That's good," he said. "I think we are getting to a world-class (level)."

    Ang Mo Kio resident Richard Seah, who takes the bus to town, said that the buses are newer. But the 58-year-old freelance writer said: "Waiting time is still unpredictable."

    In March, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew announced that the BSEP would be enhanced.

    He said the Government would fund 1,000 new buses instead of the original 550.

    All 1,000 buses will be on the road by 2017. The cost of the programme is expected to double from the original $1.1 billion.

    Besides purchasing the buses, the programme pays for operating costs, such as drivers' salaries, for 10 years.