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Public Transport Council’s response to ensure compliance of QoS Standards

One of our readers sent in a letter to Public Transport Council (PTC) last year, suggesting enhancements to their framework to ensure compliance to Quality of Service (QoS) standards.  We publish here, our readers email and PTC's response.

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Our readers email dated 14 Sep 2010:

Dear Sir / Madam,
I am a regular user of the public transport system.

My recent (over the past year) commuter experiences on the buses and trains have prompted me to question about whether the Quality of Service (QoS) Standards conducted by the Public Transport Council (PTC) are reflective of the experiences facing the average commuter, and if not, whether the system could be enhanced to provide a more accurate and comprehensive framework to ensure compliance of QoS Standards.

In light of the high costs associated with owning a car in land scarce Singapore, I am a proponent of the existence of the PTC as the independent regulator to oversee the fair management of the public transport system here. As a commuter, it is heartening to know that the PTC has already committed to establishing a framework (the QoS Standards) to define the level of service and performance that the commuter should expect to receive for their hard earned dollar. However, my main concern as a commuter is about how the assessment of QoS Standards is currently being conducted.

On that note, I would strongly urge the PTC to be transparent to the general public about when (and how often) inspections are conducted during the assessment of QoS Standards reporting. As a commuter, I would like to know whether the PTC has established guidelines about when (and how often) inspections are conducted before each 6-monthly report is released, to ensure that the assessment conducted was comprehensive and reflective of the services provided by the transport operators.

As an added measure, it would be helpful for the PTC to host feedback sessions for the general public to gather qualitative feedback about the performance of transport operators from a commuters' point of view.

Ultimately, I hope that the PTC will strive to allow members of the public to report on instances where they feel that QoS Standards have been breached. It would be easy (and virtually costless) for the PTC to create a web page for commuters to log their information and to upload any supporting video or photographic evidence of the alleged breach - this would be similar to the way that the Singapore Police Force has engaged the public through their Neighbourhood Watch programmes. I believe that the QoS Standards which have been established are simple enough for all commuters to internalise and objectively assess, particularly with respect to standards about scheduled headway and loading. With the advent of video-enabled mobile phones and other hand-held devices, virtually every commuter would have the capability to assist the PTC in their monitoring of service standards. This system would additionally create the following benefits:

Allow real-time monitoring of QoS Standards adherence in any location, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

By allowing commuters to upload videos onto the webpage, the PTC can get real-time feedback from commuters about operators' adherence to QoS Standards on any route, at any given time. This would be especially useful in dealing with ad-hoc and unplanned stoppages which affect service routes;

Reduce the time and resources required for PTC officers to ensure compliance of QoS Standards

Instead of deploying officers to conduct random checks on routes, it would be more efficient for officers to oversee the information uploaded onto the webpage and conduct inspections in-person only on identified trouble spots;

Increase the timeliness and quality of services offered by the transport operators

By allowing commuters to make submissions to the webpage, the PTC will garner a larger sample set of data on the compliance of transport operators to the QoS Standards. This should not be meant to further punish or shame transport operators but rather, provide a much more accurate and comprehensive assessment of the services provided by operators. From a commuters perspective, it is hoped that a more transparent and dynamic feedback system will hold operators more accountable to improve the timeliness and quality of their services; and

Increase the level of engagement between commuters, PTC and transport operators

This system will increase the level of engagement between commuters, the PTC and transport operators, and encourage all parties to play their part in raising the standards of our public transport system. This system will allow commuters to feel that their voices are heard and that there is a transparent platform for them to provide honest feedback about QoS Standards compliance. The PTC will be able to win over the hearts of the general public if it is being seen to actively engage the commuter and follow-through on its role as a credible and independent regulator of the public transport system. Transport operators will also be able to receive a more accurate and comprehensive assessment on how their services are performing.

I would like the PTC to consider the points listed above and would make myself available, should you require any further clarification.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

D Tay (Mr)

PTC's response dated 15 September 2010:

Dear Mr Tay

Thank you for your kind suggestions and points of interest. Please allow me to share that the actual performance of bus services is continuously tracked by the bus operators’ computerised fleet operation and management systems. Based on these databases, performance reports of all bus services are submitted to the PTC every month, and the PTC will assess the operators’ compliance with the QoS standards. To ensure that these performance reports are accurate and complete, the PTC together with its technical agent, the Land Transport Authority, regularly audits the operators’ reporting processes and systems.

The PTC also conducts an additional layer of checks to ascertain that the performance data actually matches commuters' experience on the ground. The PTC conducts multiple on-site audits or spot checks every month. Such checks are done on selected bus services as well as those bus services with service lapses experienced by commuters and reported through feedback channels. Whilst we are not able to to host public sessions, nevertheless, we are always open to feedback, thus the home page of our website has recently been further enhanced to garner feedback from commuters. If any service lapse is identified, operators are asked to account for, and more importantly, take immediate action to rectify them, even before the PTC announces the results of its 6-monthly review of the operators’ performance against the QoS standards in April and October every year.

Nonetheless, there will be challenges on the ground, such as a shortage of buses or of bus captains. Issues such as occasional traffic jams will also throw bus services off-schedule. It would be unrealistic to expect 100% compliance all the time. Instead, we aim to incentivise the operators to meet real-world challenges dynamically, and to improve their performance on a continuous basis. In the most recent review period, the operators have indeed improved their performance, compared to the previous period.

The PTC will continue to monitor the bus operators’ performance and review the standards periodically to ensure they remain relevant to commuters’ travelling experience on public transport.

We appreciate such feedback and thank you for writing in.

xxx
for Secretary
Public Transport Council