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Measures to Ensure a Sustainable School Bus Service Model

Published Date: 12 June 2023 04:00 PM

News Press Releases

1. The shortage of drivers and rising cost pressures in recent times have made it more challenging for school bus operators to sustain their operations. This has resulted in cases of operators terminating their bus contracts with schools in the past few months, leading to inconvenience for affected parents and students.

2. About 98% of Primary One students are posted to a school of their choice, or within 2km of their homes, with a minority of primary school students using school bus services to commute to and from school. To ensure the viability of the school bus sector, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has engaged bus associations and operators on measures to alleviate their operational constraints.

3. In the past year, MOE has received persistent feedback from operators about losing their school bus drivers and the difficulty in recruiting replacement local drivers. After careful deliberation with the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Manpower, we have decided that it is necessary to provide selected bus operators with limited additional foreign worker quotas to augment the supply of bus drivers on a time-limited basis.

4. MOE has briefed school bus associations and operators, and shared that they can submit their applications to MOE to request for a higher foreign worker quota for school bus drivers. We will work closely with operators to phase in more foreign workers based on their needs, taking into consideration the extent of their participation in serving our schools, as well as their demonstrated continued efforts to actively recruit local school bus drivers.

5. In addition, to help operators keep their services sustainable, MOE will be revising the school bus contract template1 to allow operators to submit two sets2 of bus fares for both the initial contract and option periods3, to allow them to take into account expected cost increases instead of being contractually bound to the same fares for the entire contract duration, which typically lasts for four years (i.e. including the option period).

6. MOE will also be making other revisions to the school bus contract template, taking in feedback from the school bus associations and the industry, to allow operators greater flexibility in discussing their service provisions with schools and parents. These revisions include the adjustment of distance range4, and allowing operators to designate common pick-up and drop-off points.

7. The use of common pick-up and drop-off points could help operators deploy their drivers more efficiently, as it allows them to ferry more students on each school bus route and, where appropriate, use larger capacity buses. Such an arrangement would not only help operators cope with fewer drivers, but may also help reduce the overall journey time due to fewer stops, as well as allow for later boarding times for students who are picked up first.

8. These contract revisions will take effect from the new contracts awarded to operators for services commencing from 2024 onwards. While these measures aim to ensure the continuity of school bus services, operators may need to continue to adjust their operations to manage their constraints. These may include investing resources to hire and train new drivers, and adjusting bus fares to reflect the costs of operations.

9. Students on MOE's Financial Assistance Scheme currently receive school bus subsidies which cover 65% of their monthly school bus fares. Those who require more support can continue to approach their schools for assistance.

10. Parents who are considering school choices for their child are also encouraged to consider primary schools that are nearer to home, and take into account the transport options available. MOE will continue to monitor the situation, and work closely with schools and bus operators to ensure a sustainable school bus service model.

  1. Schools select school bus operators through a competitive bidding process using a contract template provided by MOE.

  2. Schools will evaluate the competitiveness of both sets of fares.

  3. The revised school bus contract template will include an initial contract period of two years, with an option period of another two years.

  4. Under the revised contract provisions, bus operators are now contractually required to transport students living within 4km of their schools, down from 6km previously. Parents who live further away can still request the bus operator to offer the service, and the bus operator shall consider the request on a best-effort basis, at a negotiated price that is not contractually capped.