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“Drastic” changes to bus services: Bukit Panjang residents criticise LTA’s stand

Many go online to say that the authority is failing to meet their transport needs

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— There has been negative reaction online from Bukit Panjang residents to the Land Transport Authority’s statement on changes in the bus services from the area to the city from Aug 16. Two services will cease operating, one will be shortened and one will be rerouted.

Many feel that the authority is failing to meet their transport needs.

The had released a statement on Tuesday (Aug 4) on its Facebook page on the changes to the bus services. It had said that the decision to make changes to some of the bus services as well as the discontinuation of Services 700 and 700A came in light of the decrease in bus ridership since the opening of the Downtown Line.

It explained: “With the opening of the Downtown Line (DTL) Phase 2 in December 2015, the ridership of bus services that run parallel to the MRT line has dropped sharply. For Service 171, ridership fell by over 30% in the first year after DTL Phase 2 opened. For Service 700, the drop is more than 50%.”

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This drop in ridership of bus services has incurred a large amount of spending by LTA, as it subsidises these “services through public funds”. It gave the figure for the amount of subsidy for Service 700 as S$5 million a year.

The LTA explained that “if this is the only transport option in the area, we can justify the public spending”. However, given the establishment of the DTL, it felt that it needed to “exercise prudence in the use of public funds”.

The authority gave the assurance that it has been listening to the  transport needs of residents, such as introducing Service 973 in 2017 after consultation with grassroots advisers.

The post concluded: “We understand that the changes have led to longer travel times for some residents. But we need to balance the needs of different groups of commuters, while taking into account the availability of alternative travel options, and the burden on taxpayers. We will continue to discuss with the grassroots advisers and hear out residents to explore mitigating measures. We also seek Singaporeans’ understanding that while we do our best, it will not always be possible to provide direct bus connections.”

Those reacting negatively to the LTA’s statement felt as though the authority had failed to consider the impact of the decision on convenience of travel, including the time needed and the cost.

They were unhappy that the LTA failed to consult residents or at least warn them beforehand of the drastic changes.

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

There was criticism of the LTA for focusing on profits because it was felt that this should not be the case for public transport.

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

Others proposed alternative solutions to ceasing the bus services entirely, such as reducing the frequency of services or operating them during the peak hours.

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

Bukit Panjang MP Liang Eng Hwa, who described the service changes as drastic, had expressed disappointment on his Facebook page on Monday (Aug 3) with the LTA’s decision and its unwillingness to listen to alternative opinions.

He wrote: “The ridership for Bus 700 had indeed fallen sharply as many have opted to take the Downtown Line. We have been engaging LTA to find alternative solutions that will balance accessibility concerns for residents and optimal routes for bus service providers.

“Unfortunately, the bus planners at LTA are not open to our alternative suggestions. I am saddened that they have no regard on how these changes will impact our residents’ lives.”
The full post by Mr Liang can be found here. /TISG
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