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Speech by Senior Minister of State Dr Janil Puthucheary at The Annual Graduation Ceremony for Certification for Technical Specialist (Bus)

11 Nov 2019 Speeches

1.     Good afternoon, everybody, especially to my parliamentary colleague Mr Melvin Yong, who is also the Executive Secretary of NTWU, and all the members of the transport workers’ union, as well as our colleagues from the bus industry.

2.     Thank you for inviting me here to the Annual Graduation Ceremony for your Certification for Technical Specialists. It is an excellent occasion to come here again. I was reminded I came here one year ago for a similar occasion. This year, we are graduating another 86 graduates.

Improvements in the Bus Industry

3.     Our land transport system plays a key role in the lives of Singaporeans, connecting them to their homes, jobs, schools and friends. It allows our economy to flourish and it enables many different opportunities. Public buses are critical, providing the first and last mile connectivity. More than 3 million journeys are made on our buses every day.  
 
4.     Our public bus industry has transformed very significantly over the past five years, actually, over a very short period of time. With the expansion of our bus fleet, we have improved bus service levels by shortening waiting times and providing much more comfortable rides for commuters. Since we transitioned to the Bus Contracting Model (BCM), all bus services are scheduled at headways of 15 minutes or less during the morning and evening peak periods, compared to the pre-BCM standard of 30 minutes or less. 

5.     Commuters have felt these improvements. Based on an independent survey conducted by the Singapore Management University, public satisfaction with buses has increased steadily since 2015. This would not have been possible without the support of our bus workforce, including bus technicians working tirelessly behind the scenes, making sure our system is running optimally. 

6.     It is not just the survey by institutes like the Singapore Management University. It is also what people are saying to me in my capacity as an MP. My residents, they feel it on the ground. And me personally, as a commuter, I have felt it on the ground.       

Raising Competencies 

7.     Going forward, the bus industry will continue to transform as we adopt newer and cleaner technologies, such as diesel-hybrid buses and electric buses. To reduce the carbon footprint of our public transport system, LTA has committed to a 100% cleaner energy bus fleet by 2040. This is a target of when we are going to finish our work, but we have started this work already. Today we already have 50 diesel-hybrid buses deployed on the roads. Starting from early next year, we will see another 60 electric buses progressively deployed. So today we will have the opportunity to see the first of these 60 electric buses. 

8.     Our transport landscape here in Singapore is going to continue to evolve, and we have to ensure that our bus workforce has the necessary skills to be able to keep up with these changes. This is why we are taking all these steps to upskill as many of our public transport workers as possible. Bus technicians don’t just repair the buses when problems occur, there is a lot of preventive maintenance and the work on the sub-systems associated with the buses. These are critical systems, jobs, and skills making sure our buses run smoothly and commuters get to their destinations. All of these happen both safely as well as comfortably. This is critical to the quality of service that we need to deliver as part of our public transport commitments. 

9.     Last year, I launched the Certification for Technical Specialist (Bus), or CTS. This CTS, conferred by SGBA and the Institute of Engineers Singapore (IES), aims to upskill our bus workforce in the long run, taking a long-run view over what are the capability developments that we need within our industry. It is an industry-recognised benchmark of technical skills and competencies, and will help our bus technicians become more employable. I am happy to see so many of you receiving the CTS award today. Last year, there were 19 recipients of the CTS award. This year, more than four times that amount, quadrupled!   

10.    The CTS is also going to help prepare our bus technicians to meet the needs of the industry. To ensure the relevance of the certification and assessment, the CTS is supported by an Expert Panel, with representatives from the Land Transport Authority, IES, public transport operators, and Institutes of Higher Learning. So far, SGBA has arranged to train technicians to operate and maintain diesel-hybrid buses. Of course, to support the upcoming deployment of electric buses, SGBA has also introduced a new course in September this year, in collaboration with the electric bus supplier. 113 participants, including bus captains, technicians, workshop and operations staff, have already attended this pilot run. Moving forward, LTA and SGBA will continue to work with the industry to develop relevant training courses for these different job roles.

11.    This is an example once again of our tripartism in action. There are many examples and this is an excellent example of how LTA as a regulator, with the labour movement and the industry operators, have come together, through SGBA, looking to the future of our bus industry, and making sure we create opportunities for our bus industry workers to reskill, upskill and remain as employable as possible going into the future. 

Conclusion

12.    But this isn’t just about the workers’ capabilities and opportunities for the future. It is about making sure our industry continues to be excellent, continues to be able to provide solutions for safety and comfort that our commuters have come to expect. This is something that we as a government cannot do alone. We recognise today the efforts of many stakeholders – bus technicians, public transport operators, industry partners, and Expert Panel members amplifying this culture of continuous learning and improvement. This culture, this approach, this attitude is vital to be able to sustain growth of the sector. 

13.    We have to continue to encourage these efforts and invest heavily in capability development. We need to make sure we always have a competent and well-trained workforce. With that, I am confident that our public bus industry will transform and pursue excellence, scaling these new heights going into the future. 

14.    Today, it is my honour and my privilege to present the CTS award to our Certified Technical Specialists. Congratulations to all the recipients, and I wish you a meaningful and fruitful career ahead. Thank you.