3 Bukit Panjang Bus Services To Town To Be Cancelled, Shortened Or Lengthened
UPDATE (3 Aug, 7.24pm): LTA has responded in a Facebook post that ridership for some bus services have fallen by a large amount since the Downtown Line to Bukit Panjang opened.
It also said it faced a “tough dilemma” to balance the availability of bus services while considering the use of taxpayers’ funds to subsidise bus services with low ridership.
We’re not sure what Bukit Panjang residents did to offend the transport gods, but major changes to its bus services have been announced.
The 3 services affected all travel to from the estate to town, and from 16 Aug, they will either be cancelled, shortened or rerouted.
That’s caused Bukit Panjang residents to be up in arms over the expected inconvenience of having to make more transfers and endure more crowding in buses.
The complaints have been attracted the attentions of 2 MPs in the area, who’ve spoken out about the changes, addressing the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
3 services affected by changes
The changes were announced by bus operator SMRT on Monday (3 Aug), and they’ve caused an uproar among Bukit Panjang residents.
Most strikingly, buses 700 and 700A will be cancelled altogether.
700 travels from Bukit Panjang to Orchard Road and Shenton Way via 2 expressways, and 700A loops through the Suntec City area.
Bus service 171 goes from Yishun to Bukit Panjang, then travels to Orchard and Bras Basah via the Bukit Timah area.
It will be shortened to ply between Yishun and Bukit Panjang, and will skip the entire Bukit Timah and Orchard area totally.
Service 972 also goes from Bukit Panjang to Orchard Road, looping back to Bukit Panjang.
While it will still go to Orchard Road, it will skip Stevens Road and pass by Newton MRT station instead.
Residents fear 190 will be more crowded
Residents haven’t responded well to these changes, considering the cutting of 2 services to town makes their journeys more difficult.
A Bukit Panjang resident that MS News spoke to said the changes “really make no sense”.
Mr Bryan Ong, 21, a student who always takes 972 to Orchard, said when the service didn’t exist, there was overcrowding on 190 because it serves both Bukit Panjang and Chua Chu Kang, while 972 only serves Bukit Panjang.
Now, he thinks more people will likely take 190 again, leading to more crowds.
Another resident Dave Ng, a 22-year-old student, also fears that more people will take 190 as it’s a more direct route to town. This is especially since the 972 route will be longer.
MRT can’t totally replace buses
Part of the reason for the changes is the authorities’ push for more residents to take the MRT.
However, Mr Ng says the MRT isn’t a good enough replacement for the bus services as “everyone here knows going to Orchard area via bus is a faster option” because the buses go by the expressways.
He said 190 can even take 30 mins to reach town on a good day.
Mr Ong said taking MRT doesn’t always make sense, especially for those Bukit Panjang residents who don’t live near the MRT station and need to take a feeder bus or LRT.
And those taking the Downtown Line will still need to make an extra change at Newton to get to Orchard, he pointed out.
Overall, the changes will especially inconvenience Bukit Panjang residents who live in the further reaches of the estate, he felt.
Connection to Suntec cut
Mr Ng also pointed out that that with the cancellation of 700A and the shortening of 171, the connection to the Suntec area will be “destroyed”.
He suggested that like what netizens are saying, 972 should be extended to Suntec to compensate for the loss of 700A.
Previously, when the authorities cancelled or cut short a service, they would compensate it with another service, he added.
He also said that if they’re going to cut short 171 they should increase its frequency, which isn’t that great now.
MP Liang Eng Hwa disappointed
The uproar has prompted Mr Liang Eng Hwa, MP-elect for Bukit Panjang Single-Member Constituency, to say he’s “disappointed” in the “drastic changes”.
In a Facebook post on Monday (3 Aug) night, said it would inconvenience residents.
Although the ridership for 700 has fallen due to the MRT, he said the LTA needed to strike a balance between residents’ accessibility and “optimal routes for bus service providers”.
Strong words for LTA
Mr Liang also had surprisingly strong words for LTA, saying that it’s “not open to our alternative suggestions”.
He also said it had “no regard” for how the changes affect residents.
He strongly urged LTA to delay the changes and work on a better solution.
MP Edward Chia also disappointed
Another MP-elect, Mr Edward Chia, was also disappointed.
In a Facebook post early on Tuesday (4 Aug) morning, Mr Chia, who is an MP-elect for Holland-Bukit-Timah Group Representation Constituency, said it will affect their daily lives.
He hoped LTA will reconsider the changes, delay them and work with MPs to review the plans.
He also apologised for the inconvenience caused.
We feel for Bukit Panjang residents
Bukit Panjang residents, we feel you.
It must be jarring for your entire commute to be turned upside down due to not 1, not 2 but 3 changes to the public transport in your estate.
Especially now that Covid-19 is still circulating in the community, having buses and trains become more crowded is also a concern.
Now that 2 MPs have spoken out about the changes, will LTA do anything about them?
Featured images adapted from Facebook.