Reward Buses Which Arrive on Time. Reward Buses Which Arrive on Time?!

SINGAPORE: Starting this June, bus operators SBS Transit and SMRT will be rewarded for arriving at bus stops on schedule.

They will also be penalised if their buses do not run on time.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) plans to introduce a two-year trial for this carrot-and-stick scheme, called the Bus Service Reliability Framework - similar to a system adopted in London.

With the help of GPS technology, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will track bus arrival times at selected bus stops.

Bus operators will then be given an average score based on this data, which will determine how much they receive in rewards or penalties.

A total of 22 bus services will be involved in the pilot scheme.

The services will be monitored and compared to an established baseline of estimated waiting times, which is derived from historical performances.

This will determine the monthly incentive amount, which goes up to a maximum of S$6,000, or penalty amount, which can go up to S$4,000.

LTA said the new Bus Service Reliability Framework, previously known as the Quality Incentive Framework, should help to reduce waiting times, and ensure regular intervals between buses.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said: “It's to try and resolve some of these bus-bunching issues where you may have two buses coming together, and then a long wait if you miss those two buses.

"We're trying to work with operators to make sure that they can time their buses to come at more regular intervals. They need to put more manpower at the back end, monitor it more closely at their ops centre and give direct instructions to the bus driver so that they can better space out the arrivals of the buses."

However, transport analyst Terence Fan pointed out a loophole in the system. Operators could simply state a longer journey time, so buses are seen to be punctual.

But moving forward, Dr Fan said that the reliability framework could work well with a tender system, like the one in London.

He said: “In London, the bus routes operate on a tender process, which means that the operators have to bid for the route for only a number of years. If they don't perform well, they could lose the right to operate the route. This really gives the operator a higher, longer-term incentive to be punctual."
The LTA has already tried this business model on a smaller scale, by awarding contracts to private operators for the new City Direct Bus Services.  [link]

Common sense is on chronic shortage in Singapore. Supply is urgently required. We can't get enough of evidence of this. Just a few weeks ago, I read about the most ineffective policy [link] of 2013. Now this. Coincidentally, Minister Lui Tuck Yew had a hand in both of these remarkably thoughtless policies. No, perhaps that is consistency, not coincidence. If there is one thing to consistent about this current batch of policy makers, it's stupidity.

Prior to this new system, operators were fined for their performance lapse. Yet fine after fine, the situation have not improve. We have to understand a fine system puts any company under pressure to perform. No CEOs or managers will welcome a poor record of being fined under their charge and will undoubtedly do their utmost to minimise such occurrences. If we can assume managers as well as the crew under their charge to be diligent and responsible, I believe no one, right down to the last bus captain, would want to be late on the schedule.

So why are buses still late, why do buses come in twos and threes after a long interval? That is the root of the problem that deserves a in-depth study in order to formulate an effective policy to nip the issue in the bud. However, according to Lui Tuck Yew, the operators did not put enough manpower "at the back end" and that regular arrivals of the buses would be achievable if adequate back enders monitor their buses at their ops centre and give direct instructions to the bus drivers in the front line.

That simple eh? We should have done that a long time ago. 

If Lui Tuck Yew took the bus to work more often, besides that few times after the General Election, he would have notice why buses arrive in twos. Traffic congestion slows down the first bus. By the time bus arrives, there will be more passengers than usual waiting. So the bus will require extra time than planned for boarding at every bus stop until the bus is completely full. Meanwhile, the second or third buses behind gain on the first because there are less or no passengers along the way. The bus drivers themselves know that and very often you hear them calling out, "Wait for the bus behind," or "Behind bus coming!" to encourage frantic passengers to stop their impossible pursue to board the packed bus and further delay the bus from moving out. That situation is as real as it can and any regular user can see that.

So how will pumping more back end staff resolve the situation? When the first bus is already delayed by traffic congestion, why should the back end staff tell the drivers? Ordering the second and third bus drivers to slow down or even stop completely so that buses arrives "on regular intervals"? That may satisfy the KPI but it does not help the situation on the ground at all. Or asking the first driver to drive faster to make up for lost ground? At the risk of safety? Is that even possible during the peak hours congestion? Unless the bus company is willing to plant 3-4 empty buses along different points of the bus route to slot in whenever a bus is delayed, there is only that much the back end team can do. Did not put enough manpower in the back end? I'm afraid Lui Tuck Yew had gone way off the mark. He may actually be better off addressing traffic congestion for buses or engineering a faster system for passengers to board, alight and pay fares.

Now, about the new scheme called "Bus Service Reliability Framework" (similar to a system adopted in London.) Oddly enough, it wasn't too long ago the government boasted it has a World Class public transport system over the likes of London and Toyko. Suddenly, copying a London system has became sexy. How does that work? Rewarding the bus operators for arriving on time and punishing those who didn't. If the bus operators could not achieve any significant improvement despite the old fining system, why can a reward change that? If a reward changes the situation, does that mean that the bus operators didn't give a fuck to perform all along, until they have an incentive of doing so? This doesn't make any sense to me. The motivation to implement such a policy highly suggest the policy makers have absolutely no idea about the root of the problem.

Try telling your boss you need a reward for turning up for work on time. Heck, you need a reward for waking up in the morning at all, to make your boss rich. If that doesn't sound ridiculous to any of you Singaporeans out there, your boss would gladly explain why with his middle finger. Lui Tuck Yew is expecting us tax payers to do otherwise. I don't know who is the greater fool here. The clueless politician or the people who voted him in.

The transport analyst Dr Fan did put up a key factor to the success of the London framework. He said, 

“In London, the bus routes operate on a tender process, which means that the operators have to bid for the route for only a number of years. If they don't perform well, they could lose the right to operate the route. This really gives the operator a higher, longer-term incentive to be punctual."

Nothing works better as a motivation than the risk of losing a livelihood. There are many industries that operate on this shape up or ship out mentality. It is nothing new. So why are we making our transport industry an exception? Does a reward system work better than booting an undeserved operator out of the system? Needless to say, the Temasek protected operators would never be allowed to be exposed to the cruel reality of efficiency. Will Lui Tuck Yew's new idea work? Your arm chair transport analyst says the plan is doomed to fail even before it begins.


  1. Here's a bright idea:

    If I do my job on time all the time, then I get a bonus.
    If I don't finish my work on time, then I pay a fine
    But ah then I get to decide how much work I need to do in a day.

    Go figure that one out.

  2. Nix

    Here's something new

    Singapore Airlines A380 superjumbo makes emergency landing in Azerbaijan

    January 7, 2014 - 3:02PM

    Aussie takes 'selfie' during plane emergency

    A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 superjumbo made an emergency landing in Azerbaijan on Monday due to a loss of cabin pressure, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at the airport in the capital, Baku.

    Flight SQ317 from London to Singapore landed safely without any injuries to the 467 passengers and 27 crew on board, a Singapore Airlines spokesman said.

    "Oxygen masks were deployed and the aircraft landed uneventfully at Baku airport at 01:03 [2103 GMT Sunday]," he said.
    This photo taken by passenger Steve Murphy early shows oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling of the Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 superjumbo as it lost cabin pressure.

    This photo taken by passenger Steve Murphy early shows oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling of the Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 superjumbo as it lost cabin pressure. Photo: AFP

    In a statement posted on its Facebook site at 1100 GMT, the carrier said a replacement aircraft had left Singapore and was due to arrive in Baku about 1900 GMT on Monday.

    It is expected to land in Singapore at 3.45pm local time (6.45pm ADST).

    "We sincerely apologise to affected customers for the inconvenience caused by the diversion and the lengthy delay encountered at the airport in Baku," the airline said.

    Airbus said in a statement it was "following up on this issue and providing technical assistance to the airline".

    Nathan Phelps, from Perth, was on board the flight and tweeted a photo of passengers wearing oxygen masks.

    Conditions on board the flight during the landing were "somber with a lot of teary eyes, eerily quiet and then relief when he told us that we were going to be fine", he tweeted.

    Angry passengers took to social media to complain about being stranded in the Heydar Aliyev International Airport instead of being put up in hotels.

    The moment when I thought it was all over!
    — Nathan Phelps (@k1ump) January 6, 2014

    "We are not going to a hotel but will be flying out tonight after an 18-hour wait around the duty-free area," wrote passenger Nic Coulthard on the Singapore Airlines Facebook page at 0930 GMT.

    "I don't think it is inconsistent for passengers to be grateful for a safe landing whilst disappointed at the lack of communication and facilities provided once on the ground," he wrote.

    Rich Sharp, from Brisbane tweeted: "Despite the PR I can confirm no hotels supplied until pax(sic) had been abandoned for at least 17hrs."

    Another passenger, Terri Mann, complained that she had to sleep on a "cold steel bench" with her 17-month old child, and that there were no "food places" at the airport.

    "We are all a little hesitant about getting on our next legs of our journeys, just hope the worst is over," she wrote.

    SQ317 scramble for hotel and visas took three hours. @SingaporeAir 27 crew members nowhere to be seen. #chaos
    — Rich Sharp (@CountBeaky) January 6, 2014

    Sleeping at Baku airport tonight. All 470 of us!
    — Valentina Cardo (@DrVCardo) January 6, 2014

    Responding to a flood of posts on Facebook, Singapore Airlines noted that noise was reported from a door during an earlier flight of the same plane.

    "The door was inspected by engineers on the ground in London with no findings, and the aircraft was cleared for continued operation," it said.

    Passenger Matthew G. Johnson had said earlier that a "loud air noise was heard from the door five rows in front" shortly after take-off from Heathrow in London.

  3. Upon questioning, a crew member allegedly told him that the door had a "mild" leaking seal, Johnson said in a Facebook posting.

    A few hours later oxygen masks were deployed and the aircraft began an emergency descent over Afghanistan after the cabin began losing pressure, he said.

    His posting was accompanied by a photograph of a dimly lit cabin with oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling.

    Champs!!! “@k1ump: @SelfiesOlympicz A couple of hours ago during our emergency landing #scaredselfie”
    — Lady Wen (@Lady_Wen) January 6, 2014

    Others praised the airline for keeping the public informed through social media.

    "This kind of disclosure and transparent reporting from Singapore Airlines is exactly why you SHOULD be flying with them," James Fielding posted on the airline's Facebook page.

    "Really have to appreciate Singapore Airlines making the immediate announcement rather than say nothing and try censor the number of people who will know about the incident," wrote Ronald Leung.

    Singapore Airlines has a fleet of 19 Airbus A380s with five others on order, according to its website.

    The planes are used for flights from Singapore to various destinations including Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles.

    Read more:

  4. From the balance of probabilities, a major event will happen sooner or later.

  5. Head or tail, they win, we lose.

  6. The carrot should be put in place long time ago. The stick will increase stress and put the commuters and general public safety at risk.

    1. I don't see how a carrot reduces general public risk.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. this time I have to partially agree with the minister. I stay at Bt Batok and take bus 66 quite regularly. Many times I see two 66 coming together even tho the bus terminal is Jurong East which is only a few stops away.

    What i can't understand is what is lui tuck yew thinking? fine these buggers when they can ask for a fare raise next year claiming operating costs have gone up?

    1. You agreed that putting up more back end staff will solve 2-3 buses coming together ?