LTA to share cost of additional buses with SMRT
Shorter hours on EWL, train network closures mean more buses for commuters
A large fleet of additional buses will be required to ferry commuters left in the lurch by shorter hours on the MRT's East-West Line, and the cost will be borne by the Government and rail operator SMRT.
"LTA and SMRT will share in the costs of operating these additional bus services," the Land Transport Authority (LTA), a statutory board under the Transport Ministry, said in response to queries from The Straits Times yesterday.
The same goes for shuttle bus services between Joo Koon and Gul Circle, which will remain in place until at least next June while train services between the two stations are suspended.
Buses bridging Joo Koon and Gul Circle are free, but those plying the routes along the 19 other stations hit by the shorter hours will charge equivalent fares.
LTA said this week that 17 East-West and two North-South line stations will have shorter service hours from Dec 8 to Dec 31, and will close for the whole day on Dec 10 and Dec 17.
Other sections of the line will have shortened service times to allow resignalling work to be completed by June instead of the original date in December next year.
The rush to get the new signalling system up on the East-West Line comes after a train collision on Nov 15.
Investigations point to compatibility issues between the old and new signalling systems.
The authorities have decided to separate the two systems - and thus sections of the line - to prevent more incidents.
SBS Transit will be roped in to provide extra buses, and private bus operators are expected to be called on.
But experts and industry players said it will be a challenge to provide enough buses, and these could also contribute to road congestion.
A senior manager of a bus operator, who declined to be named, said: "We may have some excess capacity at night, but in the morning, it will be quite tough... there will also be more congestion on the road."
National University of Singapore transport lecturer Lee Der Horng said: "During peak hours, one full-load train can have as many as 1,600 passengers, and it is two minutes per train.
"So, an hourly load can hit 48,000. You need more than 500 buses, and that is only for one direction."
Singapore University of Social Sciences economist Walter Theseira expects "less travel demand than normal because commuters are likely to consider alternate routes or cancel their travel plans due to concerns about potential delays".
Both experts feel that signalling provider Thales should share the cost of the bus contingency plans, expected to cost $300,000 a month.
"Thales, if it caused the disruption, should provide some goodwill contribution... to show it accepts responsibility," Dr Theseira said.
When asked if Thales should pay, LTA said "other investigations" were still ongoing.
A Thales spokesman said: "Thales has acknowledged and apologised for its part in the collision.
"We have also directly apologised to the injured commuters and their families.
"Our focus lies on delivering that system in a safe and timely manner, whatever it takes."