Bus transport in Singapore
Buses form a significant part of public transportation in Singapore, with over three million rides taken per day on average. There are more than 300 scheduled bus services, the vast majority operated by SBS Transit and SMRT Buses.
When Singapore first gained independence in 1965, the public transport system was inadequate to cope with the population, while the buses were old and slow. Furthermore, the system was beleaguered with frequent problems such as poor management and substandard services and quality.
The main bus operator was the Singapore Traction Company (STC), plying routes in the city area. Apart from that, there were many small and individual Chinese private bus companies, each plying a small part of the rural and fringe areas of the island, with only a few routes each. Therefore a simple journey from the East to the West of the island could involve several bus transfers, and could last a few hours aboard noisy and rickety buses.
As Singapore Traction Company had a 30-year monopoly and had no direct competition, its services were usually substandard, while the small Chinese bus companies also had a shortage of resources and funds. Moreover, many bus companies had labour problems. There were quite a few cases of labour unrest. In the late 1950s, the situation deteriorated. Militant bus workers, manipulated by communist-controlled unions, resorted to strikes in a demand for better work conditions and pay. These work stoppages plagued the entire bus system into chaos.
A famous bus strike was the Hock Lee bus riots on May 12, 1955, where workers from the Hock Lee Amalgamated Bus Company began to go on strike. They were members of the Singapore Bus Workers' Union (SBWU) and were protesting against bad working conditions, long working hours and a low pay. Students from the Chinese Middle schools even came to join and support the strikers. The situation was so bad that in 1955, the Chinese bus companies were hit by a total of 57 strikes. In 1956, the 'Great STC Strike' lasted 146 days. The strikers crippled the country's transport system. The chaotic conditions usually left the commuters in a lurch.
It was in the early 1970s that government stepped in to reorganize the bus system. Many small bus companies were amalgamated into three larger bus companies, namely the Amalgamated Bus Company Ltd, Associated Bus Services Pte Ltd, and the United Bus Ltd. They were grouped into three regional sectors. The STC continued its monopoly on the central area of Singapore.
Notwithstanding the reorganization, bus services still did not improve much. There were still frequent breakdowns, overcrowded buses, and irregular fare and route structures. During this time, the protectionism of the STC by the government was also removed. The STC could not cope with this new environment and closed down its operations due to large financial losses.
In 1973, The three main bus companies were merged into a one single organization. The new company formed from this merger was the Singapore Bus Service (the predecessor of SBS Transit), which came into operation in November 1973. It was hoped that this would create economies of scale and ultimately improve bus services.
The government mooted the idea of a second bus company in the early 1980s. The idea was to provide some degree of competition to SBS. Therefore Trans-Island Bus Services Limited (TIBS) was formed on 31 May 1982, as the second major public bus operator. Trans-Island started operations on 3 April 1983.
Mr Ong Teng Cheong, the then Minister for Communications, remarked that "Each company will act as a natural impetus to enhance the performance and efficiency of the other in the spirit of healthy competition and in the process help bring about a better level of service."
In August 1994, the government announced the transfer of 17 SBS services to Trans-Island bus services. This was to help TIBS in its early years.
In 1999, the government announced the final transfer of bus services to Trans-Island bus services in exchange of SBS who had won the whole right of North East Line.
In 2001, Singapore bus service changed its name to SBS Transit Limited. This was to reflect its status as a multi-modal transport operator, as it had won the tender to operate the new North East Line and the Punggol LRT Line and Sengkang LRT Line.
In late 2001, Trans-Island became a subsidiary of the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (SMRT). Trans-Island Bus Service was renamed as SMRT Buses Ltd on 10 May 2004.
Plans are made to convert bus interchanges into being air-conditioned as opposed to the current open-air. So far, six bus interchanges have been converted. They include:
- Toa Payoh (2002)
- Sengkang (2003)
- Ang Mo Kio (2007)
- Boon Lay (2009)
- Serangoon (2011)
- Clementi (2011)
- Bedok (2014)
- Bukit Panjang (2015)
- Joo Koon (2015)
- Yishun (2018)
- Tampines (Future)
- Bidadari (Future)
- Tampines North (Future)
- Tengah (Future)
- Woodlands Regional (Future)
On 23 April 2013, the Land Transport Authority announced that a new bus depot will be built by the authority itself. It will be located off Jurong West Avenue 2. It will be the first depot that LTA is developing and funding, as part of the review of the enhanced structural assistance that Government is providing the bus industry announced in Committee of Supply (COS) 2012. The depot is intended for SMRT Buses Ltd, to accommodate the additional buses that it is bringing in over the next few years. The operator’s existing bus depots and bus park are reaching full capacity, and the new facility is necessary to support the higher number of buses as the overall bus capacity is progressively increased under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP). Subsequently announced by LTA on 29 May 2013, a new SBS Transit bus depot will be developed, the Loyang Bus Depot located off Loyang Avenue.
As announced on 21 May 2014, the Land Transport Authority announced that there will be a transition to government contracts model, which will attract competitiveness. All the Bus Services Enhancement Programme buses will be consolidated into the three new depots beginning 2016. Cross-carriaged SBS Transit and SMRT will be bidding for all operations. The licence plates for all their buses (SBS and SMB) will remain unchanged, and there will be new numbering system taking place:
- 0xxx - MAN NL323F, Mercedes-Benz OC500LE and MAN A24
- 1xxx - MAN NL323F
- 2xxx - Future buses
- 3xxx - Volvo B9TL Wrights
- 4xxx - BSEP Wrights
- 5xxx - Alexander Dennis Enviro500 and MAN A95
- 6xxx - Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaro (inclusive of BSEP)
- 7xxx - Volvo B9TL and Scania K310UD
- 8xxx - Scania K230UB
- 9xxx - Scania K230UB, Volvo Olympian (Batch 3), Dennis Trident 3 and Volvo B10TL
On 3 October 2014, the Land Transport Authority called for expressions of interest for the first region of 26 routes based on Bukit Batok, Clementi and Jurong East Bus Interchanges. The contract will be for five years, with a two year option based on performance. Several foreign operators including Arriva, Busways, Go-Ahead Group, Keolis, RATP Group, Transit Systems and Transdev have expressed interest.
Two new bus interchanges will constructed on the 4th quarter of 2015 at Tampines and Sengkang, which will complement the existing bus interchange, will also free up space for new or extended bus routes.
In 2015, more 80 new BSEP bus routes will be introduced including 10 services that will be operated by private operators from hometown to the CBD area. These four main developing towns such as Sengkang, Punggol, Yishun and Choa Chu Kang which will likely get more BSEP bus routes. After the introduction of bus routes, Woodlands Regional, HarbourFront, New Bridge Road, Boon Lay, Clementi, Serangoon, Toa Payoh and Jurong East will not be getting any BSEP routes.
Singapore's buses consist of single decker and double decker buses on routes operated by SBS Transit and SMRT Buses, and articulated buses on routes operated by SMRT Buses. SBS Transit previously operated two articulated buses, but they have since been sold to New Zealand in March 2006.
Examples of buses used in Singapore are:
- Current fleet
- Dennis Trident 3 (Bodied by Duple Metsec DM5000)
- Mercedes-Benz Citaro (Bodied by EvoBus) (WAB)
- Scania L94UB (Bodied by Volgren)
- Scania K230UB (Bodied by Gemilang Coachworks) (WAB)
- Scania K310UD (Bodied by Gemilang Coachworks) (WAB)
- Volvo B10BLE (Bodied by Volgren)
- Volvo B10M-60 Mark IV (Bodied by Soon Chow and Walter Alexander Strider)
- Volvo B10M-60 Mark IV (Bodied by Duple Metsec DM3500)
- Volvo B7RLE (Bodied by Soon Chow) (WAB)
- Volvo Olympian 3-Axle (Bodied by Walter Alexander Royale)
- Volvo Super Olympian (Bodied by Volgren and ComfortDelGro Engineering) (WAB)
- Volvo B9TL (Bodied by ComfortDelGro Engineering, Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 and Gemilang Coachworks) (WAB)
- Decommissioned fleet
- Albion Viking
- Dennis Dart (Bodied by Duple Metsec)
- Dennis Dominator DDA144 (Bodied by East Lancs)
- Guy Victory
- Leyland Atlantean
- Leyland Olympian 2-Axle (Bodied by Walter Alexander Royale)
- Leyland Olympian 3-Axle (Bodied by Walter Alexander Royale)
- Leyland Leopard PSU5C/2R (Bodied by Alexander)
- Leyland Lynx (Bodied by Walter Alexander PS)
- Leyland National 2 (Demonstrator - SBS6820L)
- MAN 16.240 (Bodied by PSV)
- MAN 18.240 HOCL-NL (Bodied by Gemilang)
- Mercedes-Benz OF1413
- Mercedes-Benz OF1417
- Mercedes-Benz O305 (Bodied by Willowbrook and Alexander R)
- Mercedes-Benz 811D (Bodied by Asia Coach)
- Mercedes-Benz O405 (Bodied by Walter Alexander)
- Mercedes-Benz O405G (Bodied by Volgren)
- Nissan Diesel U21SCN (Bodied by Fuji Heavy Industries)
- Nissan Diesel U31SCN (Bodied by Fuji Heavy Industries)
- Renault PR100.2 (Bodied by Ansair)
- Scania BR112DH (Bodied by East Lancs)
- Scania N113CRB (Bodied by Walter Alexander)
- Sunlong SLK6121UF14H Hybrid (Bodied by Gemilang Coachworks) (WAB)
- Volvo Ailsa B55 (Bodied by Alexander AV)
- Volvo B57 (Bodied by New Zealand Motor Bodies)
- Volvo B10MD (Bodied by East Lancs)
- Volvo B10M (Bodied by Van Hool)
- Volvo B10M-61 Mark II (Bodied by Walter Alexander and Duple Metsec)
- Volvo B10M-61 Mark III (Bodied by Duple Metsec)
- Volvo B10M-70 Mark IV "Superlong" (Bodied by Duple Metsec)
- Volvo Olympian 2-Axle (Bodied by Walter Alexander Royale)
- Current fleet
- Alexander Dennis Enviro500 (WAB)
- DAF SB220 (Bodied by Walter Alexander)
- MAN A95 (Bodied by Gemilang Coachworks) (WAB)
- MAN NG363F (Bodied by Gemilang Coachworks) (WAB)
- MAN NL323F (Bodied by MCV Evolution and Gemilang Coachworks) (WAB)
- Mercedes-Benz O405 (Bodied by Hispano Carrocera and Volgren)
- Mercedes-Benz O405G (Bodied by Hispano Carrocera, Hispano Habit and Volgren)
- Mercedes-Benz OC500LE (Bodied by Gemilang Coachworks) (WAB)
- Mercedes-Benz Citaro (Bodied by EvoBus) (WAB)
- Decommissioned fleet
- DAF SB220LT (Bodied by Hispano Carrocera)
- Dennis Lance 245 (Bodied by Duple Metsec (UMW and Dennis Specialist Vehicles))
- Hino HS3KRKA (Bodied by Volgren)
- Hino HS3KRKK (Bodied by Volgren)
- Hino HT238
- Mercedes-Benz O405G (Bodied by Hispano Carrocera)
- Nissan Diesel U31RCN (Bodied by Fuji Heavy Industries)
- Scania L113CRL (Bodied by Walter Alexander)
- Scania L113CRL (Bodied by ELBO)
- Yutong ZK6126 (Bodied by Yutong Integral Body) (WAB)
- Zhongtong LCK6121G HEV (Bodied by Zhongtong Integral Body) (WAB)
Singapore has many different bus services plying through the island. These bus routes can be grouped into the following categories:
- Trunk: Routes that ply between towns.
- Short Working Trip (SWT): Routes that operate short haul trips of trunk services which cater to high demand sectors of the entire route.
- Feeder: Services that operate within a neighbourhood.
- Intra-Town (SMRT Buses) and TownLink (SBS Transit): Routes that consist of combined feeder services to provide links between neighbourhoods within the same town, and with the bus interchange and MRT.
- Jurong Industrial Service: Routes that service the Jurong and Tuas industrial areas.
- Express: Routes that stop at several nominated stops and generally run on expressways for faster travel between several towns.
- Fast Forward: Routes providing faster travel between places where there is a high demand by calling at fewer stops of the main service.
- NightRider (SMRT Buses) and Nite Owl (SBS Transit): After-hour services on Fridays, Saturdays and eve of Public Holidays.
- Chinatown Direct: Routes that run from towns to Chinatown via the expressway. Operated exclusively by SBS Transit.
- Parks: Services that run from major parks to the nearest bus interchange. Operated exclusively by SBS Transit.
- Premium: Special gazetted services that charge a flat fare. No standing is allowed on such bus services.
- Cross Border Services: Services that will cross the Causeway into Malaysia.
- Resorts World Sentosa Services: Services that run from various locations to Resorts World Sentosa. Operated exclusively by SMRT Buses.
- City Direct: Service connecting passengers directly to and from Central Business District (CBD).
- Peak Period Short Services (PPSS): Services which introduced under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) that operates within selected towns, plying between MRT stations and/or bus interchanges and residential estates during peak hours.
- "New Bus Depot To Support Bus Fleet Expansion Under BSEP". Land Transport Authority. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
- "New Loyang Bus Depot to Support Bus Fleet Expansion Under BSEP". Land Transport Authority. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
- First Bus Package under the Government Contracting Model up for Tender Land Transport Authority 3 October 2014
- Who We Are Busways
- Go-Ahead in the race for Singapore contract Passenger Transport 15 October 2014
- Foreign transport operators gunning for Singapore bus routes Channel News Asia 24 November 2014
- About Us Tower Transit
- Ilsa Sharp, (2005), SNP:Editions, The Journey - Singapore's Land Transport Story. ISBN 981-248-101-X
- Ministry of Transport official website
- Public Transport Council official website
- Land Transport Authority official website
- TransitLink official website
- SBS Transit official website
- SMRT Corporation official website
- SGWiki Buses