Bus transport in Singapore
|Hubs||26 Bus Interchanges|
|Daily ridership||4.0 million|
Bus transport forms a significant part of public transport in Singapore, with over 4.0 million rides taken per day on average as of 2018. There are more than 576 scheduled bus services, operated by SBS Transit, SMRT Buses, Tower Transit Singapore and Go-Ahead Singapore. The newest bus operator, Go-Ahead Singapore started operation from 4 September 2016. There are also around 5,400 buses currently in operation.
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.
In 11 April 1971, the bus system was reorganised. Many small bus companies were amalgamated into three larger bus companies, namely the Amalgamated Bus Company, Associated Bus Services, and the United Bus Company. However, the STC had suffered great financial losses within the period of 1971 and had to permanently close its bus operations on 1 December 1971, with the revocation of its omnibus license.
In 1 November 1973, the three bus companies were merged into a one single organisation, called Singapore Bus Service (the predecessor of SBS Transit), which came into operation in 1 November 1973. It was hoped that this would create economies of scale and ultimately improve bus services. Bus lanes were introduced in 1974 and Scheme B bus transport were introduced together:
- 6 February 1974: Robinson Road (starting from Maxwell Road), and ending at Collyer Quay
- 22 February 1974: Stamford Road and Bras Basah Road
- 15 March 1974: Orchard Road from Stamford Road to Paterson Road, together with Penang Road, Somerset Road and Orchard Boulevard (to Paterson Road)
- 16 March 1974: Collyer Quay and Connaught Drive
- 1 April 1974: North Bridge Road-South Bridge Road-Neil Road from Crawford Street to Cantonment Road
- 19 April 1974: Eu Tong Sen Street-Hill Street-Victoria Street-Kallang Road from Outram Road to Lavender Street
- 20 April 1974: Selegie Road-Serangoon Road from Dhoby Ghaut to Lavender Street
- 11 May 1974: Jalan Besar-Bencoolen Street from Lavender Street to Bras Basah Road
- 20 June 1974: Shenton Way from Raffles Quay to Maxwell Road
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 (TIBS) was formed on 31 May 1982, as the second major public bus operator. Trans-Island started operations on 3 April 1983.
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."
The new bus stop stands were introduced in November 1993 and integrated both SBS (red), TIBS (yellow), City Shuttle Services (orange) and Bus-Plus Services (green) into the bus stop stand, thus allowing operator changes. Bus stop poles were also designated with a 5-digit bus stop code. Scheme B bus services were then coloured in plain text formatting, together with other Premium services. The bus stop stands were separated individually, CBD (with 4 to 5 columns each), Town Centre (with 3 columns each and also for MRT stations), and general bus stop poles.
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 1 November 2001, Singapore Bus Services changed its name to SBS Transit. 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 SMRT Corporation (SMRT). Trans-Island Bus Service was renamed as SMRT Buses on 10 May 2004.
Plans are made to convert bus interchanges into being air-conditioned (Integrated Transport Hubs (ITHs)) as opposed to the current open-air. So far, eleven bus interchanges have been converted or are undergoing conversion. They include:
- Toa Payoh (2002)
- Sengkang (2003)
- Ang Mo Kio (2007)
- Boon Lay (2009)
- Serangoon (2011)
- Clementi (2011)
- Bedok (2014)
- Joo Koon (2015)
- Bukit Panjang (2017)
- Yishun (2019)
- Woodlands (2019) (1st Underground)
- Bidadari (2019) (2nd Underground)
- Buangkok (2022)
- Choa Chu Kang (2025)
- Jurong East (2025)
- Shenton Way (2025)
- Pasir Ris (2027)
Interchanges that are also planned, are Tengah, Bedok South, Woodlands North, Marina South, Punggol Coast and Tampines North.
In April 2013, the Land Transport Authority announced that Bulim 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 the 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, Loyang Bus Depot will be built, located off Loyang Avenue.
Bus Contracting Model
In May 2014, the Land Transport Authority announced a radical change to the bus industry, switching from a privatised model to a Bus Contracting Model in which bus operators bid for routes. LTA took over all operating assets, such as buses, bus stations, bus depots and fleet management systems. Commuters benefit from shorter waiting times and improved service levels. All bus routes were bundled into 14 packages. Bus operators will bid for each package in a competitive tendering process. Should they win a bid, they will run the package routes for five years, with a two-year extension for good performance. The LTA will lease the buses and infrastructure to the operators, who will be obliged to maintain them. All fares will still be maintained by the LTA for affordability.
In November 2014, the LTA put the first package up for tender, comprising routes from Bukit Batok, Jurong East and Clementi Bus Interchanges, supported by Bulim Bus Depot . The tender was awarded to Tower Transit Singapore in May 2015. Subsequently, another foreign operator, Go-Ahead Singapore won the second tender in November that year, comprising routes from Punggol and Pasir Ris Bus Interchanges, and supported by Loyang Bus Depot. The tender for the third package, comprising routes from Ang Mo Kio, Yio Chu Kang and Yishun Bus Interchanges, supported by the Seletar Bus Depot was awarded to incumbent operator SBS Transit. In 2018, the Bukit Merah Bus Package which operates several routes in the south-western and central parts of Singapore, and comprising cross-border services 160 and 170, was also awarded to SBS Transit.
On 17 December 2018, LTA started a 6-month trial of on-demand public bus (ODPB) services. It allows commuters in the Joo Koon and Marina-Downtown areas to request the on-demand services during off-peak hours on weekdays. During the trial, regular bus services serving the areas specified will still be available, though at lower frequencies.
There are several group of bus enthusiasts in Singapore documenting the bus operations and fleet which include but not limited to: Bus spotting, chartered bus tours as well as attending bus-related activities and carnivals in Singapore. Bus enthusiasts may offer suggestions to the bus operators on rooms for improvement in enhancing the commuter experience (eg. intervals, routes)
Bus spotting: Documenting regular and special deployments(cameos) of buses in Singapore through photography and note-taking, joyriding and camping for special deployments or buses. This includes new services and interchange launches, switch over in operators as well as looking out for buses with special features.
Chartered bus tours: A group of bus enthusiasts may charter a rare or special bus for a tour to have a feel of the bus and learn about the characteristics of it that they may not be able to do so every day. In the past, bus enthusiasts have also organised tributes and farewell tours for retiring buses.
Bullying among bus enthusiasts
Since 2011, many bus enthusiasts engage in both online and offline flamewars (initiated by a famous transport enthusiast named Mark Chua Yong Xiang) on his overly popular Buses[in]gapore Facebook and Blogspot pages, as well as several duplicated social media accounts with the common intention conflicts and causing disharmony among bus enthusiasts in Singapore. His actions have since been reported to the relevant authorities and respective social media platforms. Mark Chua Yong Xiang is well-known to harass innocent bus enthusiasts by posting defamatory contents on his accounts and pages such as cursing them and their families to death while proclaiming himself as the "anti-bully" in the community.
Singapore's buses consist of single deck and double deck buses and they are operated by all four operators, SBS Transit, SMRT Buses, Tower Transit Singapore and Go-Ahead Singapore. Articulated buses are operated by SBS Transit and SMRT Buses.
In April 1996, SBS Transit introduced a demonstrator Volvo B10MA bus (registration SBS998Y) fitted with a three-door version of the Duple Metsec bodywork similar to that of Volvo's B10M buses. With a length of 19 metres (62 ft), this bus earned the title of "Asia's Longest Bus". In 1997, SBS Transit purchased another articulated bus, the Mercedes-Benz O405GN (registration SBS999U), again as a demonstrator. This bus had Volgren CR221L bodywork. In March 2006, SBS Transit sold all its articulated buses to New Zealand after encountering drivability issues with the Volvo B10MA bus and air conditioning problems with the Mercedes-Benz bus, and also deciding that double-decker buses could carry more passengers while taking up less road space, as opposed to SMRT's stance that "articulated buses offer greater accessibility and efficiency".
Singapore has many different bus services plying through the island. These bus routes are categorised accordingly:
- Trunk: Routes that ply between towns. (e.g. 166, 197)
- Short Working Trip (SWT): Routes that operate short haul trips of services which cover high demand sectors of the parent route. (e.g. 240A)
- Feeder: Services that operate within a neighbourhood. (e.g. 803)
- Jurong Industrial Service: Routes that service the Jurong and Tuas industrial areas. Operated exclusively by SBS Transit. (e.g. 246)
- Express: Routes that stop at selected stops and generally run on expressways or long stretches of express sector for faster travel between several towns. (e.g. 502, 506)
- NightRider (SMRT Buses) and Nite Owl (SBS Transit): Midnight services on Fridays, Saturdays and eves of Public Holidays. (e.g. NR1, 1N)
- Chinatown Direct: Routes that run from towns to Chinatown via the expressway. Operated exclusively by SBS Transit. (e.g. CT8)
- Cross Border Services: Services that cross the Causeway or the Second Link into Malaysia. (e.g. 160,170)
- Resorts World Sentosa Services: Services that link mainland Singapore to Resorts World Sentosa. Operated exclusively by Tong Tar Transport. (e.g. RWS8)
- City Direct: Service connecting passengers directly to and from the Central Business District. Previously operated exclusively by private operators, but public operators have taken over some services. (e.g. 666)
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- Bus Services Reorganised on 11 April 1971
- Bus Lanes
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