Expect longer waiting times for some buses due to manpower shortage as drivers in Covid-19 isolation: LTA

SINGAPORE – Commuters should be prepared to wait longer for some buses, with a few hundred drivers down with Covid-19, or placed under quarantine or stay-home notice.

For now, the increase in waiting times for the majority of affected services is within five minutes. For a very small number of services, it is more than 10 minutes, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Friday (Sept 10).

In a joint release with the four major bus operators, Go-Ahead Singapore, SBS Transit, SMRT and Tower Transit, the LTA said the operators have been doing their best to maintain current service levels. For example, some bus drivers have volunteered to work during their days off.

“However, as these measures cannot fully make up for the loss in manpower, our bus operators have started lengthening headways for some services to ensure that our bus captains have enough rest time,” said the LTA.

To reduce the impact on commuters, more double-deck buses will be deployed for services with higher loading when possible.

This include buses that serve schools, as ridership is expected to increase when students return from their school holidays next week, said the LTA.

The authority did not say how many services were affected.

Eight bus interchanges are now active Covid-19 clusters.

Clusters linked to staff at five bus interchanges have continued to grow, with 16 new cases added to clusters at Toa Payoh, Tampines, Boon Lay, Punggol and Jurong East, according to the Ministry of Health’s update on Thursday.

MOH said the clusters were caused by workplace transmission among bus drivers and interchange staff, and there is no evidence of spread to commuters.

Toa Payoh bus interchange is the biggest cluster among them, with 190 cases, after six new cases were added on Thursday.

In a Facebook post on Friday evening, National Transport Workers’ Union executive secretary Melvin Yong said that as a result of the “sharp drop in number” of bus drivers available, some have had to work overtime while others have stepped up to work on their rest days.

“In the past two weeks, hundreds of our bus captains have been placed on quarantine orders and stay-home notices due to close contact with their colleagues who had been tested positive for Covid-19,” he said.

Assistance has been provided to affected bus drivers, including the delivery of groceries to those on stay-home notice.

“All our bus captains who tested positive had mild or no symptoms. Many have recovered and are currently resting at home as part of the MOH protocol. Some will be ready to return to work as early as next week,” he said.

He added that the union is working with the respective depot supervisors to help them manage the transition back to work after an extended period of absence.

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The union is also working with operators to carve out more spaces for bus drivers to rest and have their meals at the bus interchanges.

Staff resting and dining areas in all public bus interchanges have been segregated, with only one staff member allowed to sit at each table to dine, as part of new measures to minimise Covid-19 spread.

Bus drivers and staff manning service counters at bus interchanges are also subject to routine testing at least once a week.

The LTA apologised for any inconvenience caused to commuters and sought commuters’ support and understanding for the adjustments.

Commuters can use the LTA’s MyTransport.SG mobile app to check the arrival time of buses.

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