Tower Transit wins government contract in Singapore

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London-based TfL contractor Tower Transit has been awarded an inaugural government bus contract in the Singapore city of Jurong. its bid was chosen over offers from seven other firms – including Go Ahead Group and France’s RATP – after it submitted the third-lowest bid.

Tower Transit will begin operations from the new Bulim bus depot in the summer of 2015, and by the second quarter of 2016 will be running 26 services currently operated by Singapore companies SBS Transit and SMRT. Bulim bus depot is to be operated by Tower Transit and replaces the former Wenya bus depot.

The routes will operate from the Jurong East, Bukit Batok and Clementi interchanges.

Tower Transit is a subsidiary of Australian-based Transit Systems, which in 2013 acquired a sizeable number of buses from First London as well as three depots in a £21million deal. It now operates over 650 buses in the capital, employing over 2,000 staff.

In Singapore the company will be responsible for a fleet of 290 buses – growing to 380 over the course of the contract – and will receive an estimated S$556m (approx £266m) over the duration of the five years – to operate the routes. The contract also contains an option for it to be extended for a further two years.

The results of this tender were announced last Friday by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore who promised passengers they can expect higher levels of service and lower waiting times on all bus routes.

According to national newspaper The Straits Times, the Singapore government owns all of the buses and the infrastructure under this new scheme and it collects all fares, paying firms to operate the routes.

Although there will now be a third main bus operator working on the island, the long-term aim is to streamline and assimilate services. Assistant Media Relations Manager at the LTA confirmed: “Currently the buses have the livery colours of the two existing operators in Singapore. We will move to a common livery for all our buses progressively next year.”

Current operators in the Jurong region, SBS Transit and SMRT – who between them already operate these 26 routes – also placed bids for the tender, but in a two-envelope system where costs were also factored against the quality of services promised, it was decided that Tower Transport’s bid represented the best value for money.

SBS Transit Ltd is owned by Singapore’s ComfortDelGro, which also has interests in Australia and the UK, owning among other businesses, TfL-contractor Metroline Limited, which operates 1,700 buses based from north west London.

Chew Men Leong, Chief Executive of LTA, said the decision to introduce this ‘Government contracting model’ is a major milestone for the bus industry in the city: “The restructuring of the public bus industry and the injection of more competition will bring about even higher bus service levels for commuters. With bus contracting, the government will plan bus services and can thus be more responsive to changes in ridership and commuter needs.”

Neil Smith, Tower Transit Chairman said: “Tower Transit aims to partner with the world’s top cities, operating world-class bus systems that form part of the pulse and energy of the city.

“Singapore ranks right up there with the best, and we are looking forward to contributing to its vibrancy and serving the people of Singapore, as we do in London.”

Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Transport said: “A key priority during the transition is the welfare and interests of bus captains, technicians and other bus workers. We look forward to the full support from both the incumbent and new operators during the transition, to minimise inconveniences to commuters and set the stage for higher service levels.”

A second package of bus routes was also put up for tender last month. That consists of a further 25 bus services, including three new routes, which mainly cover Punggol and Pasir Ris. These will all be operating out of the new Loyang Bus Depot.

Adam Leishman, Managing Director of Tower Transit Operations said his company is still assessing whether to bid for the second package. However, at least three of the unsuccessful bidders for the Bulim package — French firm RATP Dev, Transdev Asia (RDTA) and local operator Woodlands Transport and Travel GSH — have all confirmed they will look to bid again. Tenders have to be submitted in August, Singapore’s Today Online reports.