Jump to content

Two transport experts welcome the new bus contracting model and suggest improvements

Two transport experts welcome the new bus contracting model and suggest improvements

Sign in to follow this  




AS A long-time advocate of the implementation of a full operating subsidy model for the public bus services in Singapore, I was delighted to read that the Government is moving to a bus-contracting model.


Under this model, the Government takes over the ownership of buses and assets, and contracts the running of bus routes to private bus operators for a fee. Fare revenue goes to the Government.


This is different from the current public transport model where the Government pays for and provides the infrastructure, such as railways and bus depots. The Government thus subsidises capital spending in public transport, especially for the MRT train system.


But these assets are held by the public transport operator, which has to pay operating expenses and the cost of depreciation for trains and buses. The operator recoups these in the form of fare revenue. In this way, it is ultimately the commuting public that pays these costs.


But commuters could expect only a level of service that the fare revenue could pay for. It has become increasingly obvious that the public demands a higher level of service than what is available with the current fare levels.


The concept of public transport has also evolved. No longer regarded simply as a service for people who do not own private vehicles, public transportation is also vital for the nation's economy and social integration. Once this latter concept is accepted, the idea that the Government should fund public transport whenever necessary should be embraced.


There are many ways that taxpayers' money can be used. One is to simply inject public money into private operators and hope, or pray, that they will spend the money wisely.


Another way is to nationalise public transport. In this model, the Government does not just own infrastructure and assets. It also takes on the responsibility of operating public transport on a daily basis.


Among the models available to policymakers, I believe the full operating subsidy model - known in Singapore as the government contracting model - is the best approach.


Under a nationalised public transport scheme, the Government must prepare daily operation plans, maintenance schedules, the recruitment of bus drivers and so on.


Some criticise this model on the grounds that it leads to the undesirable intrusion of Big Government. An equally important issue, perhaps, is whether it is practicable. It is always better if the relevant minister does not have to worry about whether there are enough bus drivers to run the system on a daily basis.


Under the government contracting model, however, the Government only needs to set the desired service level for the bus service and to evaluate the chosen operator based on the pre-specified quality standard. The details of running bus services will be the responsibility of the operator which offers the best price for delivering the service level specified by the Government.


If we believe in the power of the free market, we can be reasonably confident that competition among operators from all over the world will give the Government, and eventually Singaporean taxpayers, the best service and best price (or at least, something very close to it).


At the same time, however, it is important that local officials have the tools necessary to ensure that the system works smoothly.


The role of the Public Transport Council (PTC) may need to be expanded beyond setting fares. After all, the service level required of bus operators will be higher than what can be afforded by fare revenue alone. The difference between the two will have to be borne by the Government.


If commuters pay lower fares, taxpayers will have to pay more to cover higher public subsidies. Through the fare adjustment exercise, the PTC will determine the portions recovered via fare revenue and taxpayers' top-up.


A fundamental truth in life is that we get what we pay for. The bill that taxpayers have to pick up could be huge. There must therefore be a mechanism by which a consensus can be reached on the desired level of service and how it will be financed.


In addition to the fare adjustment exercise, the PTC may have to take on the vital role of striking a balance between the desired service level and the price people have to pay.


The writer, Park Byung Joon, is head of the master's programme in urban transport management at SIM University.


-Park Byung Joon for The Straits Times

Sign in to follow this  


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Featured Stories

    Driver races with a Hayabusa and spins out of control but recovers "initial D" style!

    Singapore has its very own Takumi! (The main character of Initial D, btw) A video of a car with unknown origins racing against a Suzuki Hayabusa has received over 40 shares under 5 hours! If you haven't already seen the video, here you go! The original video is from District Singapore's Facebook page.   What's happening? In the video, it starts with the Hayabusa abruptly cutting into the cam car's lane and causing the car to swerve and spin out of control. But, the car driver somehow manages to retain back control and continue on his merry way. The kicker? Image: New Initial D Legend 1: Awakening (Sanzigen, Liden Films, Sentai Filmworks) That's not even the best part! If you were observant, you would have noticed a bunch of coins on the dashboard of the car. Watch the video again. The coins barely move even with all the spinning and swerving! Very much like the cup of water Takumi uses in Initial D no? What the people say Hayabusa good siol Confirm There’s that possibility Lol I’m just glad no one got hurt.      



    The reason why people think Singaporeans are cheap

    A recent Roads.sg video of two men using super unorthodox techniques to fill up a gas tank has caught the attention of many Singaporeans. At the time of writing this article, the post has since garnered over 100 comments (I’ll share some at the end of this article) which are pretty one-sided.    Here’s the video if you haven’t already seen it. If you have, watch it again. It' bloody hilarious! Video from Roads.sg YouTube Channel Confirm Singaporean According to the Roads.sg video description, this incident occurred across the causeway.   Screenshot from Roads.sg YouTube Channel The owner of what we believe to be a 2016 Toyota Vios, is definitely a Singaporean. I can say this with assurance because I've pumped petrol in J.B. before and you only ever see Singaporeans do stupid shit like this while Malaysians laugh at us. The back of the car looks similar! Do you save money in the end? If you're not too familiar with what is going on, the logic is simple. Bubbles are formed when you pump petrol in your car and these bubbles take up precious space in your fuel tank that could go to more fuel. Therefore, if you shake your car, the bubbles will dissipate, allowing you to get more petrol and more savings. Alright, you might save a couple of bucks, but the repercussions don't make sense to me. Not worth it You will eventually wreck your rear suspension which is not cheap to repair. You look like an idiot You give Singaporeans a bad name You will kena caught on video like this guy and, everyone will know you for the wrong reasons What the people say The answer is nothing. You saved nothing. Pretty sure he is. Facebook comments taken from Roads.sg Facebook Page That’s funny af.



    Grab driver and his male passenger thinks of others before self in a nasty Thanksgiving car accident

    Have you ever watched a car accident video and told yourself in your head that “heng ah, it wasn’t me or someone I know”? I guess it’s human nature. The truth of the matter is – Even if you’re the safest driver in the world, all it takes is just one idiot driver to mess it up for you. So what happens if it happens to you or someone within your social circle? Read on to find out. Sometime in the evening yesterday, 28th November 2019, I received a message from one of my closest friends. It was an image of his heavily damaged Honda Freed. That’s how heavily damaged it was. The cause? This Lorry. It was a pretty bone-chilling sight, but the fact that he was messaging me meant that he was fine, so that was a relief. Eventually, he sent over the video footage of the accident. The video includes both the rear and dashcam footage. In the video, my friend, the Freed Driver, let’s call him Jeff, for privacy sake, is filtering into an expressway. A lorry follows suit, loses control and charges straight into the back of the Freed, shattering the glass on the rear windscreen. Also, that's a damn loud bang.  In the car There’s no in-car footage, but you can hear a brief exchange of conversations between three people in the car – Jeff and his two passengers. Jeff and the other guy were worried about whether anyone was injured, but the lady, presumably in shock, could only think of one thing. She was carrying Thanksgiving potluck food with her when the crash happened, and you can hear her go “Oh no! The gravy casserole’s everywhere!” Whut? Image taken from bigover.com This is what Casserole looks like. Anyhoo, I’m glad all parties are fine. RIP Casserole. You perished so that others could live. The best Thanksgiving dish yet.



    BMW driver brake checks cabbie resulting in accident on PIE!

    A video submitted to Singapore Reckless Drivers and circulating on Facebook depicts an accident that took place along the PIE towards BKE after Steven Road exit around 9:24 am on 20 January 2020. In the video, you can clearly see that the BMW abruptly cut the Trans-Cab's lane. And then, this typical BMW driver decided to hit the brake to show his macho-ness. And due to some ego issues with the cab driver, they bang on each other. Here's the full video. Let this serve as a gentle reminder to all drivers out here! Please drive graciously this Chinese New Year! Don't risk you and your passenger over such trivial disputes. Anyway, there is a reason why BMW drivers are hated so much. Drive safe BMWs! 🙂