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. There are also around 4,200 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.
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, Associated Bus Services, and the United Bus. 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 (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."
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 (Integrated Transport Hubs (ITHs)) as opposed to the current open-air. So far, seven 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)
- Joo Koon (2015)
- Bukit Panjang (2017)
- Yishun (2019)
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.
In 2016, the government will adopt a new contracting model with the Land Transport Authority determining the bus services to be provided and the service standards, and bus operators tendering for the right to operate these services. Fare revenue will be retained by the government who will also retain ownership of all buses and bus related infrastructure.
Bus contracting will be implemented in phases over several years. Services in Singapore will be bundled into twelve packages with about 300-500 buses each. Initially, three packages will be tendered out for five years, and can be extended by another two years on performance criteria being met. The three packages will comprise about 20% of existing buses. The other nine bus packages, will continue to be operated by the existing operators as negotiated contracts, for durations of about five years. After these negotiated contracts expire, more bus services will be gradually tendered out.
On 3 October 2014, the Land Transport Authority called for tenders to operate the Bulim package of 26 routes based on Bukit Batok Bus Interchange, Clementi Bus Interchange and Jurong East Bus Interchange. Eleven parties including Busways, Go-Ahead Group, Keolis, RATP Group, SBS Transit, SMRT, Transit Systems and Transdev lodged bids. The contract was awarded to Transit Systems trading as Tower Transit Singapore in May 2015.
The second package of 25 routes based on Changi Airport Bus Terminal, Changi Village Bus Terminal, Pasir Ris Bus Interchange, and Punggol Bus Interchange will put out to tender in the second quarter of 2015. The contract was awarded to the Go-Ahead Group on 23 November 2015.
On 25 November 2014, the Land Transport Authority announced expansion works for Sengkang Bus Interchange and Tampines Bus Interchange. The expansion consist of additional parking bays for another 12 buses each to support the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP), passenger boarding and alighting facilities, a concourse area, offices, a staff lounge and a canteen. It scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2016.
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 once operated two articulated buses, but was sold to New Zeland's Bayes Coachlines because of failing driving tests. These buses were SBS998 and SBS999.
Singapore's buses also consist of types that are not seen in Singapore, these types are called "demonstrators." SBS Transit had a bus called the "Superlong." The bus is about 16m long, while single decker and double deckers only is 12m long, the registration number is SBS997A.
After 17 years of lifespan, the superlong finally retired in 2015, the last service it was on was 83.
||This section is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (May 2015)|
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. (e.g. 117)
- Short Working Trip (SWT): Routes that operate short haul trips of trunk services which cater to high demand sectors of the entire route. (e.g. 100A, 105B, 109A)
- Feeder: Services that operate within a neighbourhood. (e.g. 315, 317)
- 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. (e.g. 802)
- Jurong Industrial Service: Routes that service the Jurong and Tuas industrial areas. Operated exclusively by SBS Transit. (e.g. 253, 258)
- Express: Routes that stop at several nominated stops and generally run on expressways for faster travel between several towns. (e.g. 502, 506)
- Fast Forward: Routes providing faster travel between places where there is a high demand by calling at fewer stops of the main service. Operated exclusively by SBS Transit. (e.g. 10e)
- NightRider (SMRT Buses) and Nite Owl (SBS Transit): After-hour services on Fridays, Saturdays and eve 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, CT18)
- Parks: Services that run from major parks to the nearest bus interchange. Operated exclusively by SBS Transit. (e.g. 408)
- Premium: Special gazetted services that charge a flat fare. No standing is allowed on such bus services. (e.g. 532, 534, 560)
- Cross Border Services: Services that will cross the Causeway into Malaysia. (e.g. CW1, CW2)
- Resorts World Sentosa Services: Services that run from various locations to Resorts World Sentosa. Operated exclusively by SMRT Buses. (e.g. RWS 8)
- City Direct: Service connecting passengers directly to and from Central Business District (CBD). Operated exclusively by private operators (e.g. 651, 661, 665)
- 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. Operated exclusively by private operators (e.g. 293P, 903P, 912P)
Singapore, too, has retired routes, these are most likely because of low demand on these type of buses
- CityShopper: Services that operates from malls to busy streets, these buses are operated exclusively by SBS Transit. All 3 CityShopper services were withdrawn due to low demand. These are service 579, 580 and 581. The numbers are currently used for another route operated by private operators.
- CityBuzz: Services that operates in famous sites, like the Esplanade. These buses are operated exclusively by SBS Transit. All 3 CityBuzz services were withdrawn due to low demand. These are service City Buzz C1, C2, and C3.
- "Integrated Transport Hubs (ITHs)". Land Transport Authority. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- "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.
- "Why bus contracting?". Ministry of Transport. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- "First Bus Package Under The Government Contracting Model Up For Tender". Land Transport Authority. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- "Busways among 10 other operators to submit bid in Singapore". Busways. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- "Go-Ahead in the race for Singapore contract". Passenger Transport. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- "Latest News". Tower Transit. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- "11 operators submit bids for first tender under bus contracting model". Channel NewsAsia. 19 January 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- LTA Awards First Tendered Bus Package to Tower Transit Group Limited Land Transport Authority 8 May 2015
- London based Tower Transit wins First LTA Tender to Operate 26 Bus Services in Singapore Tower Transit Singapore 8 May 2015
- London-based Tower Transit wins first Government bus contract to run services in Jurong Straits Times 8 May 2015
- "Second Bus Package Under The Government Contracting Model To Be Put Up For Tender In Second Quarter Of 2015". Land Transport Authority. 11 March 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- "Second UK transport operator wins bid to run bus services in Singapore". Channel NewsAsia. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- "Expansion Of Sengkang And Tampines Bus Interchanges". Land Transport Authority. 25 November 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- Ilsa Sharp, (2005), SNP:Editions, The Journey: Singapore's Land Transport Story. ISBN 981-248-101-X
- Ministry of Transport website
- Public Transport Council website
- Land Transport Authority website
- TransitLink website
- SBS Transit website
- SMRT Corporation website
- SGWiki Buses