Alternatives to Paying Expensive School Bus Fees For Singaporean Parents (2019)
Recently, it came to light that a bus operator engaged by Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (SCGS) quoted a monthly school bus fee of $550 for ferrying students two-way from Punggol to Dunearn Road, double of what was quoted by the previous operator.
Seeing that some car owners pay $550/month towards their car loan, that’s pretty insane.
We are going to investigate school bus fees in Singapore in this article and present some viable alternatives.
School buses fees in Singapore (2019)
The fees of school buses in Singapore are regulated by Singapore School Bus Association.
An unbelievable rule it sets is that school bus payments must be paid for 12 months in a year (although buses don’t run during March, June, September and December holidays. Fee collection timings).
This can add up to be a lot of money if your school-going kid is taking a $550/month bus like that SCGS girl. (Thankfully, the bus operator lowered the fee to $350/month for the particular parent after the school’s intervention, but it’s still a lot.)
Let’s look at how much other bus operators are charging for primary schools and secondary schools in Singapore.
School bus fees for primary school students
Parents whose children are in primary school are fortunate because MOE has a portal where you can see the fees across all schools in a transparent way.
Here’s a small sample of how fees look like for a two-way trip on a 15 to 30 seater bus.
|0 to 2 km||2 to 4 km||4 to 6 km||6 to 8 km|
|Bedok Green Primary School||$100||$205||$325||$465|
|Pioneer Primary School||$119||$175||–||–|
|Admiralty Primary School||$120||$150||–||–|
|Punggol Green Primary School||$120||$140||–||–|
|Ngee Ann Primary School||$155||$195||$225||$250|
|Kong Hwa Primary School||$160||$190||$210||$240|
|Singapore Chinese Girls’ School||$150||$200||$240||$300|
|Holy Innocents Primary School||$250||$350||$400||$600|
*Actual fare may differ based on the number of students and distance.
Not all schools are listed, however. Parents of children in schools like Raffles Girls Primary School, Tao Nan Primary School, and ACS (Primary) won’t find their bus operators and school bus fees in this portal. But, all in all, it’s still a good guide.
SCGS’ bus provider Revolving Transport has reduced its fees since the furore. For the family who stays at Punggol, a good 20km from SCGS, they now pay $350 instead of the $550 that was quoted for a two-way trip.
In general, the larger the bus, the cheaper it is. But bear in mind that you will have to wake up really early if you are one of the first to board the bus.
School bus fees for secondary school students
School bus fees for secondary school students are harder to find. Most secondary school students just take public transport, but if you really want a school bus service, some operators do provide it.
Many schools offer a morning school bus service only, which is understandable as dismissal times vary for secondary school students.
A parent whose daughter goes to Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary) says that she paid $150 a month for a one-way service in the morning. They live in Sembawang, which means it’s a 23km journey to school. Wow. Compared to that SCGS parent, they got quite a good deal.
Some schools offer a free shuttle bus service from the MRT station for free, such as Crest Secondary School.
Alternatives to school buses
Thanks to technology, parents and students now have alternatives to paying 12-month school bus fees. They can take part in carpooling or bus pooling using the services GrabShuttle, Schoolber, or RydeSchool.
A big plus point of these alternatives is that you don’t need to pay for the months that you don’t use the service.
|Traditional bus companies||GrabShuttle||Schoolber||RydePool|
|Cost||$100 to $600||From $130||One-way from $70 |
Two-way from $150
|Depending on distance|
|Deposit||1 month||1 month||None||None|
|Commitment period||12 months||2 months||None||None|
|Booster seat||No need||No need||Required for children under 1.35m||Required for children under 1.35m|
School bus fees via GrabShuttle start from $130 per month and follow a nine-month payment schedule. You only need to pay a deposit of one month and the minimum commitment to the service is only 2 months.
All you have to do is to fill a form on the GrabShuttle for School website and the route will be activated when GrabShuttle receives enough similar requests.
So this is when you start to get active in those overzealous mummy groups and rally their support for the route that you want!
From the GrabShuttle app, parents can see their child’s trips and get in touch with the shuttle bus driver directly if anything urgent arises.
Apparently, drivers are screened and trained to be able to handle younger children. The buses will also be equipped with seat belts and be covered under commercial insurance.
Another benefit of the GrabShuttle is that instead of the regular shuttle bus that seats 13 or 23 people, parents can also go for four-seater taxis, which means their kid doesn’t have to wake up so early in the morning, and can catch more sleep.
Schoolber works like GrabShare/UberPool but for school children.
It launched in January 2017 and it’s basically a service that parents can sign up to find other parents from the same school who would help to ferry their children. Parents who have cars can also offer to drive other children.
Rates start from $70 to $150 a month, depending on whether the rides are one-way or two-way.
Through the Schoolber app, parents can send a ride request based on pick-up and destination locations. Schoolber will match the best carpool partner, and during the trips, you can track where the children are at any point of their journey.
In many ways, Schoolber is a more intimate service than GrabShuttle, since your child’s driver is a fellow parent who sends their child to the same school.
You will have a chance to get to know the driver first and introduce your children to their children. They’re gonna have to share a ride to school every day, after all. You could even state upfront who you would not like as a driver.
With a smaller number of passengers (literally a maximum of 4), your kid can sleep in more for sure.
Before they launched in December 2016, the Singapore School Transport Association raised concerns about them being a “pirated taxi service”, but they’re still in operation now so I think it’s working quite well for Schoolber and parents who no longer have to pay 12 months’ worth of school bus fees for only 9 months of service.
Do note that if your child is below 1.35m, he or she would have to sit on a booster seat.
One thing to note about Schoolber is that drivers are not required to take up commercial insurance. They are only covered by their personal motor insurance.
RydeSchool works exactly like Schoolber, except from the looks of it, it seems a little more ad-hoc with less commitment.
You can book a trip just like how you book a regular Grab by keying in the school name and your child’s name. The app will provide a few drivers in your area who are going to the same destination.
That sounds pretty steep, considering that it’s $440/month for two-way trips. RydeSchool is probably more useful for ad-hoc situations such as when your child accidentally overslept, or if there’s a special event like Sports Day and you are unable to ferry your child to school because of timing.
You can view a driver’s vehicle type, ratings and reviews, and also request for RydeSchool trips 7 days in advance.
During the trip, you will be notified when the trip starts and finishes. You can also contact the driver with the in-app chat function. If your child is younger and you are worried, you may ride with your child for the first time to familiarise him/her with the process and also get to know the particular driver.
Similar to Schoolber, a booster seat is required for children under 1.35m.
We’re looking for reviews of GrabShuttle for School, Schoolber and Ryde School! Have you used them before? Share your experiences below!