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Chee Hong Tat, LTA to meet Bukit Panjang MPs, residents on Aug 8 after outcry over changes to bus services

SINGAPORE — After drawing ire for scrapping and shortening two bus services connecting Bukit Panjang to the city area, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will meet with various stakeholders on Saturday (Aug 8) to discuss a way forward.

Passengers boarding bus service 700 on Aug 4, 2020.

Passengers boarding bus service 700 on Aug 4, 2020.

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SINGAPORE — After drawing ire for scrapping and shortening two bus services connecting Bukit Panjang to the city area, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will meet with various stakeholders on Saturday (Aug 8) to discuss a way forward.

Mr Chee Hong Tat, the newly appointed Senior Minister of State for Transport, said that he would seek to “understand (residents’) concerns and discuss what are the possible mitigation measures”. 

Apart from Mr Chee, representatives from LTA, Members of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa and Edward Chia, grassroots leaders and residents will be present at the meeting.

The plans were made known in Facebook posts put up by Mr Chee and LTA late on Friday night.

The bus services in question are 700 and 700A, which ply the route covering Shenton Way, Orchard Road, Bukit Timah and Bukit Panjang and will be withdrawn from Aug 16, as well as 171, a loop service that will be shortened to exclude Newton, Orchard Road and Bras Basah.

Mr Liang, who is the MP for Bukit Panjang Single Member Constituency, and Mr Chia, who oversees the Zhenghua ward of Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency, which is in the Bukit Panjang district, expressed their disappointment with the changes on Monday, saying that residents have been airing their grievances, too.

Mr Liang used stronger words, stating that he is “saddened that (LTA bus planners) have no regard (for) how these changes will impact” residents’ lives.

He was already engaging LTA to find alternative solutions that will “balance accessibility concerns for residents and optimal routes for bus service providers” leading up to the announcement, he said.

On Friday, Mr Chee said that LTA has been engaging grassroots advisers on the matter since 2016, then echoed LTA’s justifications for making changes to the bus routes earlier this week.

Pointing out that the key reason for the change is “prudence in spending public funds”, he reiterated that ridership of the bus services had dropped sharply since the second phase of the Downtown Line opened in December 2015, and that the bus routes run parallel to the MRT line.

The Downtown Line operations are subsidised by public funds, he added, stating that the amount being funded comes up to more than S$60 million a year for the stretch between Bukit Panjang and the city.

He then stated that service 171’s ridership had dropped by more than a third, while service 700’s ridership had fallen by more than half in the year following the opening of the second phase of the Downtown Line.

The lower bus ridership also meant that the Government had to provide a higher amount of subsidies to continue operating these services, he said.

Before the coronavirus outbreak hit, S$14 million of subsidies were needed every year to keep services 171 and 700 running, he pointed out.

Mr Chee added: “We need to optimise the allocation of limited resources to benefit as many commuters as possible living in different parts of Singapore, but we also understand the concerns that residents have and that some of them will experience inconveniences.”

Related topics

LTA SMRT Bukit Panjang bus route Downtown Line

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