The second package of bus routes under the government contracting model was today (April 15) put up for tender by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). But in contrast to the enthusiastic response that greeted the first package, the foreign and local operators that TODAY spoke to had little to say when asked about their interest. Of the six operators contacted, two said they plan to bid, two others were non-commital and the rest declined to comment.
Analysts said this was because the operators are awaiting the results of the first package, which would have a significant bearing on the operators’ plans. The results are expected to be announced by June, while the tender for the second package will close in August.
Last May, the Government announced the transition to this new model of operations, where it owns the bus operating assets while private operators compete for contracts to run routes.
The newly released package comprises 25 bus services — including three new routes — that mainly cover the Punggol and Pasir Ris areas, and will be operating out of the new Loyang Bus Depot.
The winning bidder will run the services for five years with the possibility of a two-year extension for good performance. It will also be required to operate, manage and maintain the government-owned buses, interchanges and Centralised Bus Fleet Management System.
Of those contacted today, SMRT Buses and French firm RATP Dev Transdev Asia (RDTA) expressed their interest.
Mr Tan Kian Heong, SMRT Buses’ vice president said: “SMRT Buses is pleased to participate in the Loyang package. We look forward to delivering a positive commuter experience to all residents served by the Loyang bus services.”
RDTA’s bid director, Mark Harbridge, said it is “very interested” in the package, which it is now studying.
“The bid process for the first package, which is being considered at the moment, was a very positive experience and it is one of many reasons that we are excited about the Loyang bus package,” he added.
Incumbent operator SBS Transit’s senior vice president for corporate communication, Tammy Tan, said it is unable to comment since it is a competitive tender. Mr Roger Wong, General Manager of Woodlands Transport, said it will evaluate the tender requirements before deciding whether to bid.
Transport analysts said operators could be waiting for the tender results of the first bus package to serve as a benchmark.
SIM University transport analyst Park Byung Joon said SMRT’s low bid price could have surprised its rivals. “If SMRT is going to win the first bid for that price, foreign companies may find that it may not be as profitable as they thought,” he said.
Eight of the 11 bids for the first package were shortlisted last month. Incumbent bus operators SMRT and ComfortDelGro — via its subsidiary SBS Transit — had the lowest bidding prices of S$93.7 million and S$125.2 million, respectively. The six remaining bids ranged from S$125.6 million to S$153.5 million.
National University of Singapore transport expert Lee Der Horng believes that interest in the second package is still strong among operators, adding that those who participated in the first tender are likely to throw their hats in the ring again.
“They just need to make some tweaks. Most of the content material (for the first bid) can still be applicable for the second bid. It wouldn’t make sense to walk away,” he said.