After residents of Bukit Panjang raised their displeasure over the sudden changes to the bus services in the area, newly appointed Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat announced on Thursday (13 August) that some adjustments will be made to bus services 171, 700 and 972 to “cushion the impact on commuters”.
In a Facebook post, Mr Chee said that after conducting a follow-up meeting with Grassroots Advisers Liang Eng Hwa and Edward Chia Bing Hui to talk on “possible mitigation measures” – along with the Ministry of Transport and Land Transport Authority (LTA) – the team had agreed on a number of measures.
However, the changes will only come into effect on 30 August in order to give bus operators more time to implement the new measures. The implementation of the measures were initially set to be carried out on 16 August.
“To provide sufficient time for bus operators to implement the above mitigation measures, we will defer the changes to Services 171, 700 and 972 from 16 August to 30 August 2020,” Mr Chee said.
This comes after SMRT announced that the bus services 700 and 700A will cease operations while the route of service 171 will be shortened – where it will operate from Yishun bus interchange and loop around Bukit Panjang MRT station.
The route of service 972 will also be amended to serve Bukit Timah/Dunearn Road, Newton MRT and Scotts Road.
LTA reasoned that this bus service adjustments were necessary due to a sharp drop in bus ridership as well as a need to exercise prudence in the use of public funds.
In Mr Chee’s post, he laid out the measures that will be implemented at the end of the month, which include providing a direct bus to town for people residing along Petir Road as well as extending operating hours during peak hours.
“To provide a direct bus connect to town for affected residents along Petir Rd during peak hours, we will amend existing Service 971E to ply along Petir Roard before entering BKE and PIE. We will convert this from a peak-hour express service (971E) to a peak-hour trunk service (971) that calls at more stops,” Mr Chee said.
He added, “To serve more commuters, we will also extend the operating hours for Service 971 from 7.10am to 7.50am in the morning and 6.05pm to 6.30pm in the evening to 6.30am to 8.30am and 6.05pm to 7.35pm respectively”.
He went on to say the fare for Service 971E will also decrease by 60 cents, given that commuters don’t have to pay for express fares anymore. Additionally, existing commuters of Service 971E will also “experience an increase in travel times”.
“They can also alight at more bus stops along the way. For residents staying along Petir Road, they will have the same travelling time and pay the same fares as the current Service 700,” he noted.
On the other hand, the route for Service 972 – which was originally intended to serve those at Bukit Timah and Dunearn Road as well as residents residing near Newton MRT and Scotts Road – will also no longer be amended in view of residents’ feedback, Mr Chee stated.
“Instead, we will introduce a modified Service 972M by redirecting a portion of the existing Service 972 buses to ply along Dunearn Road and Scotts Road. This allows commuters at Dunearn and Bukit Timah Road to retain connectivity to Scotts Road and Newton MRT,” he said.
Mr Chee also added if necessary, more trips will be added for Service 972 and 972M during peak hours in order to “manage waiting times and crowding”.
“Bukit Panjang commuters can take either Service 972 or 972M to town, there is also the additional option of Service 971 during peak hours. While this arrangement increases the headway between bus arrivals for both Services 972 and 972M, commuters can use the bus service app to plan your journeys and minimise waiting time at the bus stops.
“I seek everyone’s understanding that we need some give and take in such situations, to cater to different groups of commuters while ensuring prudent use of public funds,” he expressed.
The last measure that will be added is for Service 973 where the frequency will be increased during peak hours as “to enhance the connection to Hillview MRT”.
“We will monitor the situation after two months and assess if further adjustments are needed,” Me Chee concluded.