By Nicholas Yong
BUS operators are reviving plans for a central terminal for Singapore-Malaysia express services amid increased competition from budget flights.
The Express Bus Agencies Association (EBAA) is looking for investors to help build an airport-style terminal, which is expected to cost millions of dollars.
The plan, first mooted five years ago, would centralise the now-splintered express bus services between Singapore and Malaysia. Coaches currently operate out of more than a dozen locations.
The EBAA has said that a centralised, one-stop transport hub for express buses would lead to a greater degree of organisation and professionalism. The proposal comes as low-cost carriers offer more budget flights between Singapore and destinations such as Kuala Lumpur.
The EBAA, which represents more than 20 companies, envisions a terminal with up to 20 boarding bays and 60 to 100 parking lots. This would be many times larger than popular pick-up points such as Golden Mile Complex and Queen Street.
The EBAA will be studying possible locations for the new central terminal.
In 2004, its proposal to use part of Turf City as a bus terminal was turned down by the authorities. In follow-up discussions, the Government offered a plot of land near Turf Club in Kranji. But both sides were unable to agree on key points such as the location of the terminal.
Bus companies welcomed the idea of a central terminal, saying it would give the industry a professional image.
'Based on the transport infrastructure in other countries, Singapore should have something much better,' said Hasry Express director Ismail Rahman. 'It does not look good when tourists see the facilities at places like Golden Mile or Lavender.'
The EBAA has proposed that the Government build the terminal, calling it a 'basic' piece of infrastructure. 'In other countries like Australia and China, public transport infrastructure is built by the government, not private enterprise,' said EBAA spokesman Sebastian Yap.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, the authorities said a study on a central bus terminal is being done by the Land Transport Authority, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Singapore Tourism Board.
Regular bus passengers such as student Tee Chiu Seng, 23, who goes home to Kuala Lumpur several times a year, said: 'I usually take the bus from Boon Lay Shopping Centre. But if there is a central terminal...we would have a lot more options.'
Every day, more than 200 express buses carrying thousands of passengers depart Singapore for Malaysia. Of the almost 11 million travellers from here who went to Malaysia in 2007, about four million took an express bus or excursion coach. The express bus industry is estimated to make more than $150 million a year.
Top photo: An express bus blocking traffic along Beach Road, outside Golden Mile Complex, which is a pick-up point. Such congestion may become a thing of the past if bus operators succeed in getting a central terminal built.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 8, 2009.
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