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Tower Transit to roll out bus services on May 29

SINGAPORE — Ahead of the launch of its maiden operations in Singapore on May 29, Tower Transit has met its recruitment target with 812 bus captains on its roster, of whom three in four are Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

Mr Kong Chiong Ping, 42, Mr Lee Zi Yang, 35, Mr Lee Shao Xiang, 29, are among the 448 new bus captains hired by Tower Transit. Photo: Clifford Lee/TODAY

Mr Kong Chiong Ping, 42, Mr Lee Zi Yang, 35, Mr Lee Shao Xiang, 29, are among the 448 new bus captains hired by Tower Transit. Photo: Clifford Lee/TODAY

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SINGAPORE — Ahead of the launch of its maiden operations in Singapore on May 29, Tower Transit has met its recruitment target with 812 bus captains on its roster, of whom three in four are Singapore citizens and permanent residents. 

In an industry that has long faced difficulty stirring up local interest in the profession, all 448 fresh entrants recruited by Tower Transit are Singapore citizens and PRs.

The rest of its crew comprise 364 of the 484 bus captains affected by the handover of operations from SMRT and SBS Transit to Tower Transit. The UK-based operator was awarded the contract to operate 26 bus services under the Government’s new bus contracting model last year.  

The 26 services run from the Clementi, Jurong East and Bukit Batok Bus Interchanges. To ensure a smooth transition, the handover will be implemented in three tranches starting May 29, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Friday (April 29).
 
Commuters will get a first taste of Tower Transit’s services on nine routes on May 29 — 77, 106, 173, 177, 189, 941, 945, 947, and 990. 

This will be followed by services 66, 78, 79, 97, 97e, and 143/143M, on June 12. 

By June 26, Tower Transit will be running the show on all 26 routes, with services 41, 49, 96, 98/98M, 183, 282, 284, 285, 333, 334, and 335 joining the routes plyed by its bus captains. 

In a statement, LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said: “The Bulim bus package marks the start of the bus contracting model. We would like to assure commuters that LTA, Tower Transit Singapore, SBS Transit and SMRT are working together tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.”

Speaking at a media briefing on its recruitment efforts on Friday, Tower Transit Singapore managing director Andrew Bujtor assured that “there won’t be any difference” for passengers: “The buses will arrive from the same locations, same stops, the buses will have the same signage in terms of the route number. The only difference will be that there will be a Tower Transit bus captain sitting inside the bus.”

Some 5,000 individuals came forward to expressed their interest in becoming bus captains after the operator launched its recruitment drive last year with an aim of hiring 750 bus captains. Around 2,000 of the hopefuls were Singaporeans and PRs. “Three in four of our bus captains are Singaporeans or PRs. This is unprecedented in the local public bus industry,” said Mr Bujtor. 

To woo drivers, Tower Transit offered better basic pay, smaller workloads and what it billed as more professional treatment of its captains, including not requiring them to handle duties such as refuelling, cleaning and parking the buses at the end of their day — unlike their counterparts at SBS Transit and SMRT.  

Earlier this year, UK-based operator Go-Ahead, which won the contract to operate the Loyang bus package, followed suit with comparable perks. SMRT and SBS Transit then announced plans to step up their hiring game, with SMRT upping basic salaries, while SBS Transit said it was reviewing its salary package. 

Among the new bus drivers joining Tower Transit, the median age is 15 years younger than the industry median of 58 years old, the Tower Transit noted. 

It also said that around 6 per cent of its bus captains are women, and the company hopes to attract more women to its fold. 

Mr Lee Zi Yang, 35, who joined Tower Transit in March after 15 years in the logistics sector, said he liked the culture of “family closeness” at Tower Transit. “I also have my own family, but coming to my work, I feel happy,” he said. 

Tower Transit will be taking over 317 buses from SBST and SMRT buses by the end of the three phases, in addition to the 50 buses they currently have in their fleet.

Asked if it planned to bid for future bus contracts, Tower Transit said it was open to other opportunities, but the focus will be on the Bulim operations for now.

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