In this month's analysis advice, we take a look at how the revamp of our public bus system will affect commuters' perception towards public transport
June 2014 Monthly Analysis: Overhaul of the public bus service system PHOTO:

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has recently announced that our public bus transport system will undergo an overhaul.

Contrary to the current privatised model, where operators take ownership of transport assets and service standards, the Government will now step in to take control of all operating assets, such as depots, buses and the fleet management system.

Operators will then be contracted to run service routes, via competitive bidding, for a period of five years. The authority will also set service standards for operators, which will be raised from current levels.

At first glance, these substantial changes to the system bring hope to enhance current service standards. This is because by taking ownership of operating assets, there is a bigger role played by the authority, which in turn allows greater flexibility to make improvements such as enrolling more buses into services. As such, quicker responses can be made to counter changes in service demands.

By bearing the revenue risk, the Government can also better ensure that fares are kept affordable to the masses.

Main players, such as SMRT and SBS Transit, will no longer have a stronghold on the industry as private bus operators are entitled to vie for the service contracts. The announcement has attracted strong interest from both local and foreign operators, which in turn will heighten competition within the industry. By breaking the duopoly, operators will have to keep to the mark to ensure survival.

On hindsight, however, there is more to it than meets the eye.

Although the local public transport system has exceeded standards set by those in other nations (in terms of efficiency, coverage, operation hours, etc.), Singaporeans have been quick to criticise the system's shortcomings.

With more operators eyeing the pie, there will also be a rise in competition. The public, in turn, may be more cynical and 'obsessed' with figurative performance, such as waiting time. This will, naturally, bring up consumers' level of expectation, leading to more criticisms on the local public transport system.

In simpler terms, we reckon the public will continue to be dissatisfied with the service and system, even if the standard of quality has been raised.

While we are positive about changes that the system overhaul can bring about, consumers have to level their expectations in order to appreciate how much our public transport has improved over the years.