Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport Back
a. what is the rationale for reinstating Bus Service 167 after the LTA announced its discontinuation;
b. whether the aforementioned rationale provides grounds for the LTA to reinstate other discontinued bus services, including along Bedok Reservoir Road; and
c. how much is the restoration of Bus Service 167 expected to cost the Government each month for the next two years.
Reply by Acting Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat:
1. To optimise our limited bus resources in response to changing ridership patterns following the opening of Thomson-East Coast Line Stage 3 (TEL3), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had planned to discontinue Service 167 and shorten Services 162/162M and 75.
2. Service 167 is a long trunk route which serves commuters from Sembawang in the north to Tanjong Pagar in the south. As the shortening of Services 162/162M and 75 also affect these commuters, LTA decided to retain Service 167 at a reduced frequency for now, to give commuters more time to adjust to the new travel arrangements. We proceeded with the changes to Services 162/162M and 75, as the ridership on these services had declined significantly after TEL3 started operations. LTA also made adjustments to increase the frequency of other services such as 121 and 980 to ensure that there is sufficient capacity on alternative routes for commuters.
3. As a package, these changes have achieved a total annual cost savings of $5.1 million. This amount is reallocated to support new bus routes and feeder services for commuters from new housing estates in different parts of Singapore.
4. The annual subsidy required to operate the original Service 167 was $6.2 million. By reducing the frequency to one trip every 30 minutes, the amount of subsidies required dropped to $3.6 million per year. LTA will continue to monitor the ridership on these amended services and make further adjustments where necessary.
5. For buses plying Bedok Reservoir Road following the opening of Downtown Line Stage 3 (DTL3), LTA had shortened the routes for Services 22, 66 and 506 in December 2021, while providing commuters with additional connectivity and capacity on other services such as 65 and 228. The majority of affected commuters have switched to using DTL3 since 2021, enjoying cost and time savings on their journeys compared to taking a long bus ride. Currently, during the weekday peak hour where demand is the highest, Service 228 buses are mostly only half-filled, with no bus reaching 75% of the maximum capacity.
6. We understand that some commuters are affected when LTA shortens bus routes or removes services, as they would need to adjust their travel arrangements. This is why every such change is made judiciously, after careful assessment of the changing ridership patterns and alternative commute options, and taking on board feedback from key stakeholders.
7. As we expand our MRT network and introduce new bus routes and services to serve new housing estates, it is necessary for LTA to continue reviewing and adjusting existing bus services. It is not financially sustainable for commuters and taxpayers if we only add new MRT and bus services over time, without reducing or shortening existing bus services when ridership patterns change.