London commuters happy with bus standards

Under the Quality Incentive Contracts system in London, individual routes are tendered out to operators for contracts of five years. Photo: Joy Fang
Less waiting time for high-frequency buses in London.
Published: 4:06 AM, June 14, 2014
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Last month, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that the public bus industry will be restructured under a bus contracting model, where operators will bid for a package of routes through competitive tendering. The model has been adopted by cities such as London and Perth. In a visit organised by the LTA, TODAY senior reporter Joy Fang ( looks at how a Quality Incentive Contracts system — which sets standards for bus operators to meet under the terms of the contracts — has brought about improvements in bus services in the English capital.

LONDON — Retirees Sue and David Shimell recalled how in the late 1990s, they had to endure “terribly long waits” of more than 30 minutes for bus services whenever they travelled from their home in Croydon, South London, to the town centre or central London.

Back then, information such as whether bus services were disrupted or delayed was only available from the radio or television, said Mr Shimell, 80.

Now, waiting times have been slashed by half and commuters can get more information through a variety of channels, such as the transport authority’s website, countdown boards at bus stops and SMSes. “Buses are more on time (and) there are more buses available. Things are quicker and there’s more urgency about it”, Mr Shimell added.

Since 2001, London bus commuters have enjoyed shorter waiting times as well as more reliability and better service, thanks to the Quality Incentive Contracts (QIC) system that has been in place. Under QIC, individual routes are tendered out to operators for contracts of five years, with an option for the authorities to extend them by another two years if performance standards are met.

Based on standards such as mileage clocked and reliability of services, operators receive financial incentives that are linked to the quality of service given, for up to 15 per cent of the contract value. They suffer deductions from the contract value of up to 10 per cent if their service does not meet targets.

Singapore rolled out a trial for a similar scheme — the Bus Service Reliability Framework (BSRF) — in February this year to focus on bus arrival times. The trial involves 15 buses and will extend to another seven buses by the end of the month.

When TODAY visited London last week, commuters in the English capital generally gave a thumbs up to the standards of bus services since the implementation of the QIC.

Still, given the city’s choking traffic, some commuters said there are times when the bus services are unpredictable.

Ms Jane Belotserkovskya, 19, an undergraduate from King’s College London, said she finds it tough to plan her journey as congestion can lengthen her bus journey from her home near Sloane Square to the Tube station — referring to London’s public metro system — by 15 to 30 minutes.

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