LTA backtracks on Bus Service 167 withdrawal

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has backtracked on its decision to withdraw Bus Service 167, in an announcement made on 28 November 2023. The route will be operated at 30-minute intervals instead, starting from 17 December 2023.

Bus Service 167 plies between Sembawang and Bukit Merah, via the Upper Thomson, Orchard, and Shenton Way areas. It was originally slated for withdrawal on 10 December 2023, as part of a slew of bus service changes affecting routes running parallel to the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line (TEL) Stage 3.

Main article: Thomson-East Coast Line 3 Bus Service Changes | Land Transport Guru


According to the LTA, its decision to retain Bus Service 167 ‘for now’ was to benefit commuters who may need more time to adjust, and to try out the new travel routes, especially for Bus Service 167 where the changes were more extensive.

The announced U-turn came less than 2 weeks after the route changes were initially announced on 17 November 2023. Planned amendments to other bus routes, namely 75, 121, 162/M and 859, were also delayed by a week to 17 December 2023 instead.

Despite backtracking on the withdrawal, the LTA reiterated its stance on bus service rationalisations. It cited a 30 to 40 percent ridership decrease for bus services plying along segments of TEL, including Bus Service 167, and the need to reallocate resources to other parts of Singapore, such as emerging new towns and estates. It added that it was ‘not always possible to preserve direct bus connections for every journey’.

LTA had earlier already lengthened headways on Bus Service 167 after the opening of TEL3, citing lower demand. Off-peak headways were observed to have increased from 15 minutes previously to 18 minutes.

With the further degradation in headway, Service 167 joins Service 400 and 883M as the only trunk services operating at 30-minute intervals; the lowest scheduled headway of all trunk routes.

Temporary measure?

LTA’s press release mentions that Bus Service 167 will be retained ‘for now’, cites alternative bus routes to Service 167 available to commuters, and reiterates its rationale for bus service rationalisation. This points to the retention of Service 167 as a temporary measure, and does not rule out further cuts to Service 167.

Cost estimates

In a Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Rationale for Reinstating Bus Service 167 after Discontinuation Announcement published on 10 January 2024, the LTA estimated that an annual subsidy of S$6.2 million was required to maintain Bus Service 167’s existing service levels, and this dropped to S$3.6 million following the implementation of 30-minute frequencies from 17 December 2023, representing S$2.6 million in annual savings.

As a whole, the implementation of the TEL3 bus service changes had achieved cost savings of up to S$5.1 million, which authorities say went towards the launch of new bus routes and feeder services for commuters residing in new BTO developments around Singapore.

Updated Posters

Updated posters for bus service changes effective 17 December 2023 were released by the Public Transport Operators on 30 November 2023.

In addition to the new Service 167 poster for the change in its timetable to operate at 30 minute frequencies daily, a separate poster for the enhancement to Service 980 was made.

The changes to the first bus / last bus timings for Service 980 are to match that of Service 167.

Commuter feedback in the news

Negative public sentiment was reflected in several articles in mainstream news outlets following LTA’s withdrawal announcement on 17 November 2023.

A Channel NewsAsia article on 17 November spoke to commuters who called the changes ‘ridiculous’ and disagreed that ridership on Bus Service 167 was low. One pointed out that the waiting time for Service 167 was already poor, at up to 20 minutes, and often arrives together with Service 980, thus negating the benefits of having two bus services along the same stretch (between Novena and Sembawang).

A TODAY article published on 21 November highlighted dismayed reactions to LTA’s announcement on Facebook, and interviewed commuters who preferred a direct bus ride instead of taking the TEL, even if the journey time was longer. They cited the access penalty of having to transfer between buses and trains, with long walks needed to reach underground TEL platforms, which inconveniences the elderly and less mobile. Furthermore, the TEL was often crowded and lacked seats.

Forum letters to The Straits Times also pointed out that the withdrawal of Bus Service 167 contradicts the Government’s car-lite efforts by reducing public transport options and discouraging existing car owners from switching to public transport. Another writer who lived along Thomson Road called out the delay to Mount Pleasant MRT and withdrawal of Service 167 as detrimental to public transport connectivity in the area.

Original Withdrawal Posters

Outcry over past route amendments

Many other bus service changes have ignited negative public sentiment in the past, but only several have necessitated LTA backtracking on its initial route amendment plans. This section outlines several past instances.

2020 Downtown Line 2 amendments

Main Article: Controversy over Downtown Line 2 Bus Rationalisation | Land Transport Guru

Three years ago on 3 August 2020, under DTL2 bus service rationalisation, the LTA planned to withdraw Bus Service 700/700A while amending Bus Service 972 to Bukit Timah and Newton MRT to cover for Service 700/700A’s lost sectors. Bus Service 171, between Yishun and Marina Centre, was to be shortened to Bukit Panjang.

The announcement led to overwhelmingly negative reactions. Responses from Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Mr Edward Chia Bing Hui, Members of Parliament for Bukit Panjang and Holland-Bukit Timah respectively, were shared on their respective Facebook pages within 24 hours of the press release.

In response to these sentiments, LTA highlighted that ridership for Service 171 and 700/700A fell by 30% and 50% respectively following the opening of DTL2 in 2015, and that subsidy to maintain Service 171 and 700/700A came up to $14 million a year, and that it was heavily subsidizing the DTL2’s operations at $60 million a year.

Nevertheless, meetings between LTA and grassroots representatives led to bus service changes. The planned amendment to Bus Service 972 was scrapped, with a new Bus Service 972M introduced to ply the intended route amendment via Dunearn / Bukit Timah and Newton MRT. Express Service 971E was converted to a trunk service 971 to offer direct bus service from Petir Road to the City during peak hours, and the frequency for Service 973 was enhanced.

2015 Bus Service 300 amendment

In February 2015, LTA intended to amend Bus Service 300 to skip Choa Chu Kang Avenue 3 (between CCK Ave 1 and CCK Way) and Avenue 5 entirely and operate as a bidirectional loop route numbered 300G and 300W. Due to negative feedback from residents of Choa Chu Kang, the planned amendment to feeder bus service 300 was cancelled.

The LTA eventually amended Bus Service 300 to skip Choa Chu Kang Avenue 5 and Keat Hong Close in April 2015, two months after the initial amendment, with lost sectors served by new services 301 and 983.

Associated articles
LTA Press release
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22 thoughts on “LTA backtracks on Bus Service 167 withdrawal

  • 2 January 2024 at 1:09 PM

    Even no point having double decker buses foe bus service 167. This lead to many commuters living along Thomson areas using Thomson-East Coast Line and Sembawang Residents using North South Line getting to city.

  • 2 January 2024 at 1:07 PM

    No point for bus service 167 to retain at twenty minutes interval during peak hours as it will make demand even super lower. One day bus service 167 will be withdrawn for good.

  • 17 December 2023 at 6:31 PM

    LTA pls revised the timings…30 mins for off peak is okay but make it 20 mins for peak hours with full DD fleets.Sat/Sun can maintain 30 minutes.


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