[photo credit: The Straits Times]
Eleven bus operators are bidding for Singapore’s new bus contracting model’s first tender. The tender closed yesterday.
Four operators are from Singapore – Aedge Holdings, Woodlands Transport Holdings, SBS Transit and SMRT Buses.
There was also a joint bid between Singapore’s Travel GSH and China’s Jiaoyun Group Co.
The others are foreign operators – Australia’s Busways Group, China’s Jinan Public Transport Corporation, French-based companies Keolis and RATP Dev Transdev Asia Holding, and United Kingdom’s The Go-Ahead Group and Tower Transit Group.
Under the bus contracting model, there are 12 bus packages, with about 300-500 buses each that bus operators will run. However, only three packages will be tendered. The other nine will be given to SBS Transit and SMRT Buses to run for at least three years.
Under the first tender for the Bulim package, 26 bus services, operating from three interchanges – Bukit Batok, Jurong East, and Clementi, are being opened for bidding. A new Bulim Bus Depot, off Jurong West Avenue 2, will also be part of the package.
SBS Transit and SMRT Buses have also submitted bids for the first tender.
SMRT said that it has a “track record of delivering safe, reliable and comfortable journeys to all commuters”.
“Having closely examined the Bulim package, we are confident that on the combined strength of our management, workforce and processes, we will exceed the performance and service expectations outlined in the tender. SMRT Buses looks forward to delivering a positive commuter experience to all residents served by the Bulim bus services,” SMRT Buses’ vice president Tan Kian Heong told Channel NewsAsia.
It is not known why SBS Transit and SMRT Buses are still allowed to bid for the bus package when the government has already given them nine out of the 12 packages to run.
If they win the only three packages allowed for tender, then bus services will still continue to be run as a de facto duopoly. There would not be any change from the current system, in spite of the claim of wanting the public bus services to more responsive to changes and to inject more competition.
Woodlands Transport, which is Singapore’s largest private bus operator, has also submitted a bid. It said that its bid is “convincing and sustainable”.
“We are very confident that we will win this particular tender as Woodlands Transport has been in the market for 40 years in Singapore. We believe that we understand the people and we understand the market. We are able to deliver all the service requirements required by LTA (Land Transport Authority) and we believe this tender submission will be a very competitive one,” Woodlands Transport Holdings’ general manager Roger Wong said.
Aedge Holdings which runs City Direct services to the Central Business District and a daily premium bus has also submitted a bid.
UK’s Go-Ahead believed that its experience in running a contracting model similar to Singapore’s will be useful.
“Around two million people travel on our buses every day in the UK and we have consistently achieved passenger satisfaction scores of over 90 per cent,” Go-Ahead Group’s chief executive David Brown said.
“We hope to introduce our innovative systems and solutions to Singapore to ensure that commuters here have positive passenger experiences, and also cultivate an excellent working environment for our bus captains.”
Australia’s Busways Group said that it is ready to invest in terms of finances and human capital, so that bus services in Singapore will be of quality.
“We expect that, over time, Singaporean bus captains will move into non-driving management roles, empowered to manage the Busways Singapore operations with support from the Australian team, just as we have always operated in Australia,” Australia’s Busways Group’s managing director Richard Rowe said.
According to LTA, the bids will be evaluated on similar criteria, in areas such as quality factors and price.
LTA claimed that it is looking for the best value for money.
The tender is expected to be awarded in the second quarter of this year.
LTA also said more information of the second and third bus packages will be announced later.
Questions should be asked as to why SBS Transit and SBS Buses are still allowed to bid for the remaining packages, having already controlled three-quarters of the bus packages available.
Moreover, even with the new bus contracting model, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew had already said that fares would still need to be increased ” to ensure the overall financial sustainability of the public transport system”.
“There is surely no free lunch,” he said.