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SBS Transit bows out of night bus market – partially October 24, 2008

Posted by hafizbam in Route Amendment.
Tags: , , ,
SBS3854J on NiteOwl 8N. Photo courtesy of Desmond Tay.

SBS3854J on NiteOwl 8N. Photo courtesy of Desmond Tay.

The recent announcements made by SBS Transit regarding impending changes to its Nite Owl services effective end of this month resembles waving the white flag of surrender, though only at half mast. In summary, the changes would be:

– Revised operating hours to only between 12am to 2am every Friday, Saturday and eve of public holiday.

– Increase in fares from $2.50 to $4.00 from city (that is an increase of $1.50!).

– Withdrawal of routes 7N (integrated into 4N) and 8N (integrated into 5N).

– Route amendments to 2N, 3N, 4N and 5N.

Among the changes, the shortening of the operating hours irked me the most, as it shows – clearly – that SBS Transit is cherry-picking, the term raised by former Transport Minister when the feeder bus service market was liberalised years back. In other words, choosing to only operate when it is most profitable. Assuming a 30-minute frequency, each route will only be running five trips each night. Not that there are any guidelines as to the number of hours the company has to run the night services, but one would not expect such a move from the country’s leading public bus service provider whose services are depended on by the majority of local commuters.

When SBST’s revised Nite Owl routes were created, they were meant to be faster than rival SMRT’s rather winding competing routes. Extensive use of the expressways and plying non-stop along certain roads were supposed to realise this. However, with the exception of 1N and 6N, the other routes have been revised to serve more estates along the way, maximising the value of every single drop of fuel consumed.

And the final bugbear, which would also win hands down as every commuter’s worst: higher fares. The $1.50 jump to $4.00 makes the night services equivalent to the premium bus services running every weekday morning. The difference is that we would not really be paying for a premium service guaranteeing us seats. In fact, expect to stand all the way home especially during festive seasons when these buses would be packed like sardines. But then again, the new fares might deter some who would rather share a cab as the cost difference would not be as significant anymore.

And the best part to all this? It follows the changes made by rival SMRT earlier this year who seemed to have created an exclusive name for itself through the dual-directional NightRider services it inherited from TIBS. It only increased its fare by 50 cents to $3.50 (that’s 50 cents cheaper than SBST’s Nite Owls – and that includes free transfers) and even extended its coverage to include the up and coming night spot in HarbourFront which proved to be a good move. In towns like Bishan, Toa Payoh, Bukit Panjang, Woodlands and Sembawang which SBST refused to venture into, SMRT still has a monopoly.

My only fear is that SMRT might tarnish this attractive mode of travel on weekend nights by following the footsteps of SBS Transit in its quest for fatter profits.



1. Varun - October 25, 2008

have our fingers crossed that SMRT won’t be as stupid as SBST. Now, i can’t even go home in a SBS Transit NightOwl after 2am, though i wish I would have taken one last time. 😦

2. Mr_ZhiPing - November 6, 2008

Since they are now charging $4 which is comsidered as a premium to many ppl. WHo knows, they might deploy DDs on festive seasons… 😛

3. hafizbam - November 16, 2008

Charge premium… but still no guaranteed seats lol. They better do deploy double decks to make up for the steep fare increase.

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