Controversy over Downtown Line 3 Bus Rationalisation

Continued from Page 1:
  • Overview of route amendments
  • Our thoughts on each route amendment
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of each move

7 January 2022 – Parliamentary Question (PQ) Filed for Parliament

In early January 2022, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Aljunied GRC (Bedok Reservoir-Punggol), Mr Gerald Giam, filed a Parliamentary Question (PQ) for Minister for Transport, Mr S Iswaran, regarding the route changes to Bus Services 22, 65, 66 and 506, about a month after their implementation.

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport:

  1. whether LTA has conducted any studies on the effects of additional bus transfers on the elderly or disabled commuters that are brought about by the re-routing and withdrawal of bus services; and
  2. how does LTA assist elderly or disabled commuters who are faced with additional transfers, following the changes to bus services, including those living along Bedok Reservoir Road.

10 January 2022 – Written Reply by Minister for Transport, Mr S Iswaran

In a written reply to the PQ filed by Mr Gerald Giam, Minister for Transport, Mr S Iswaran, mentioned that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) “does its best to enable commuters to complete their journeys on public transport with minimal inconvenience, while balancing operational and financial considerations.”

The written reply also mentioned that Bus Service 65, which runs parallel to the deleted sectors of Bus Service 22, was retained and adjusted to ensure commuters will continue to have a bus connection between the central areas and Tampines.

In addition, it highlighted that the frequency for Bus Service 228, which runs parallel to the deleted sectors of Bus Service 66, has been increased during the morning peak for commuters travelling between Bedok Reservoir Road and Bedok Interchange.

However, the written reply specifically excluded justifications for the route adjustment of Express Bus Service 506 to Serangoon Interchange.

You can read the full excerpt of the written reply by the Minister for Transport here.

5 February 2022 – 1st Parliamentary Exchange with Minister for Transport, Mr S Iswaran

During the following month, MP for Aljunied GRC, Mr Gerald Giam, shared his recent exchange in Parliament with the Minister for Transport regarding the bus service changes along Bedok Reservoir Road through a Facebook post. You can read the full exchange in Parliament here.

11 March 2022 – 2nd Parliamentary Exchange during Committee of Supply (COS) Debates

During the Committee of Supply (COS) debates for the Ministry of Transport, Mr Gerald Giam, reiterated the impact of the Downtown Line 3 bus rationalisation on the residents of Bedok Reservoir Road, and seeked further clarification regarding LTA’s reasoning to rationalise bus services following the opening of new MRT lines.

Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Transport, Mr Chee Hong Tat, made the following clarifications during the debate:

  1. After the opening of new MRT lines, LTA has to regularly trim selected bus services with decreased passenger demand and reallocate excess capacity in order to keep Singapore’s public transport system financially sustainable and keep overall costs manageable for commuters and taxpayers.
  2. LTA determines which bus services that run parallel to new MRT lines to rationalise based on ridership data, which is “an objective indication of commuter demand.”
  3. LTA does continue to operate some bus services “with low ridership” in order to maintain essential public transport connections for commuters in some areas with no alternative travel options. These low demand bus services are operated at a loss, and requires subsidies from the government’s $1 billion pool.
  4. Selected trunk bus services that run parallel to new MRT lines are also retained by LTA to maintain “network resilience”.
  5. However, the deleted sectors of Bus Services 22, 66 and 506 are determined to duplicate the DTL 3 extensively with low ridership. Moreover, there are “alternative bus services plying similar routes” to the deleted sectors of the above bus services.
  6. Ridership for the deleted sectors of Bus Services 22, 66 and 506 decreased further between 32% and 55% after the opening of DTL 3 in 2017 (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic), as many commuters opted to transfer to DTL 3 from feeder bus services to enjoy lower fares through transfer rebates, as well as reduced travel time compared to the amended bus services.
  7. LTA amended the route for Bus Service 65 as part of the rationalisation exercise, in order to “maintain connectivity” between Tampines Ave 4 and Bedok Reservoir Road. The deleted sectors for Bus Service 65 along Tampines Ave 5 and Ave 1 are covered by 3 alternative bus services (assumed to be Bus Services 21, 67 & 168).
  8. LTA had attempted smaller scale cost reduction methods prior to the bus rationalisation, such as switching the fleets for Bus Services 22, 66 & 506 from double-deck to single-deck buses and reducing their service frequency. However, the cost reductions from the above changes were insignificant due to the demand for bus captains to drive the buses in shifts, as well as technical crew to maintain the buses.
  9. By trimming selected bus services with low ridership, excess resources can be freed up and reallocated for the introduction of new feeder buses in new residential estates, in order to meet new demand for bus services without a rapid increase in operating costs and subsidies.
  10. LTA subsidised the operations of the deleted sectors for Bus Services 22, 66 and 506 at $9.5 million per year.
  11. LTA has requested SBS Transit to make improvements and adjustments to alternative Bus Service 228 (operating parallel to the deleted sectors of Bus Service 66), which led to a reduction in its maximum load from between 70% and 75% to between 25% and 45% during peak hours.
  12. LTA has also requested SBS Transit to increase the frequency for Bus Service 228 between 0600 and 0645 hours on weekdays, which has been revised to 5 minutes per bus.
  13. Switching from single-deck to double-deck buses does not reduce the operating costs for bus services with low ridership, as bus captains are still needed to drive the buses, and bus technicians are still required to maintain the buses.
  14. The purchase of new minibuses may incur additional upfront costs, as bus captains and bus technicians need to be trained to drive and maintain the buses respectively, despite the fact that LTA currently leases 4 midibuses from BYD Singapore for the operation of Bus Service 825.

You may watch the live Parliament recording of the COS debate, as well as the 2nd PQ filed by Mr Gerald Giam.

See Also

36 thoughts on “Controversy over Downtown Line 3 Bus Rationalisation

  • 11 February 2022 at 5:51 PM

    could have let 66 as it is and:
    withdraw bus 228
    extend 60 to Changi Village or Tampines concourse
    shorten 87 to loop at Bedok Reservoir MRT

    • 11 February 2022 at 5:56 PM

      shorten170 to start from bukit panjang
      mutual route switch with 41 from Jurong East to Beauty world

      OR make 66 ply an express sector to newton mrt


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