SINGAPORE: As more bus captains test positive for COVID-19, about 90 bus services have suffered extended wait times of no more than three minutes as part of contingency planning to ensure smooth operations.
“Infected bus captains account for less than 5% of the total bus captain population due to high vaccination and booster rates, as well as stringent safe management procedures,” said Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat in Parliament on Monday (Feb 28).
Mr Chee further stated that the infectious Omicron variant has resulted in an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the community.
Nonetheless, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and bus operators are “vigilantly monitoring the situation” and will implement procedures to guarantee that vital bus services continue to operate, according to Mr Chee.
He was responding to a legislative inquiry from Member of Parliament Joan Pereira (PAP – Tanjong Pagar) about how the increase of COVID-19 infections among bus drivers had affected public bus transportation and commuter wait times.
Contingency plans will be implemented if the number of affected bus captains rises, according to Mr Chee. He went on to say that this involves “lengthening bus service headways, beginning with low demand bus routes.”
“Wherever practicable, the LTA and bus operators will also deploy more double-deck buses for higher-loading routes.”
USE NEW, RETIRED, AND FORMER BUS CAPTAINS
Ms Pereira responded by asking if bus firms have a reserve or recently retired bus driver pool to which they can turn in times of need.
“We do have a group of recently retired bus captains as well as past bus captains. We are attempting to grow the number of local bus captains by inviting more people to join us, to take on this essential and significant duty, and to be a part of the public transportation sector. At the same time, we understand that training a bus captain is difficult because it takes time,” Mr Chee stated.