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UPDATE: New bus service AC7 from Yishun to JB December 17, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Fleet News, Overseas Travels, Premium Bus, Private operators, Something New.
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Following the bus service’s no-show on Wednesday and Thursday which left many confused, Advance Coach has clarified that it could not start operating from Wednesday 15th December as it did not receive approval from the Malaysian authorities earlier in the week as expected. However, the company has since received the relevant approvals and would commence service AC7 from today, Friday 17th December 2010.

They added that bus service AC7 will stop at ALL bus stops along the route, including the pair of bus stops outside Republic Polytechnic along Woodlands Avenue 9. Frequency is at 20 to 30 minutes. As with other cross-border bus services, the bus will wait at the post-immigration clearance bus bays for a reasonable amount of time before proceeding on to Kotaraya or Yishun. For further details, refer to the previous post and newspaper article below:

NEW BUS SERVICE FROM YISHUN TO JB
– Service AC7 will run every half hour from Yishun Interchange to Kotaraya Terminal

by Teo Wan Gek

A new bus service from Yishun to Johor Bahru starts today.

It is the third new cross-border bus route to be introduced this year, as part of a bilateral agreement to increase transit links announced in May.

The new service AC7, from Yishun bus interchange to Kotaraya Terminal in Johor Baru, will benefit Malaysian students and workers who travel daily to Singapore, and Singaporeans on daytrips to JB.

Premier bus operator Advance Coach obtained a permit to run the service from the Malaysian authorities on Wednesday.

Its managing director Neo Tiam Beng, 42, is glad for a chance to diversify his business beyond ferrying schoolchildren and workers within Singapore.

“Thankfully the two prime ministers are on good terms. If not, I would not have this business opportunity,” Mr Neo said.

He has invested some S$2 million in the venture and bought 10 new 44-seater buses.

The service will run every half hour from 5.45am tp 11.30pm. The entire journey takes 70 minutes and costs S$2.

When prime ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Razak met here in May, they agreed to increase the number of cross-border bus services with the addition of eight new routes, four from Singapore and four from Malaysia.

These routes are to connect Pasar Bakti (Kotaraya II) and Larkin in Johor to the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) integrated resorts, Boon Lay, Yishun, Newton and Changi Airport.

Two of the Singapore services started in September and run from RWS and Changi Airport to Johor Baru.

Express coach operator Transtar Group provides these two services but has yet to break even. Its 22-seater buses are at 40 per cent occupancy.

Transtar executive director Sebastian Yao, 54, said: “The company has been bleeding for three months but occupancy is growing. Maybe in six months or a year, it will hit 75 per cent. I may consider getting a bigger fleet of buses then.”

None of the Malaysian services has begun operating yet.

Mr Yap believes that the Malaysian bus companies will jump in only after their Singapore counterparts build up demand for these new services.

“If it were me, I would do that too,” he said.

To further improve connectivity between the two countries, the two prime ministers had earlier agreed at the retreat to build a rapid transit link between Tanjung Puteri in Johor and Singapore by 2018.

SMRT has been operating service 950 from Woodlands Regional Interchange to Kotaraya Terminal since 2004.

SMRT Buses vice-president Kang Huey Ling welcomed the new service linking Yishun and JB. “We believe the new cross-border service would encourage more travel between the two countries, and this would be beneficial to all companies in the long run,” she said.

Yishun Ring Road resident Edwin Lim, 44, a taxi driver, said he would use the new service AC7. Previously he took a train to Woodlands and transferred to a bus.

He said: “It is so much more convenient and direct now. I am more likely to go to Johor Baru with the new service.”

- The Straits Times, Friday 17 December 2010, page A14.

Advance Coach launches new cross-border service AC7 to JB December 13, 2010

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Poster for service AC7

Poster for service AC7 at Yishun bus interchange. Courtesy of Muhd Faizal.

Private bus operator Advance Coach is set to launch yet another new cross-border bus service into Johor Bahru (JB), this time from Yishun bus interchange, effective Wednesday 15 December 2010.

Buses for the new service AC7 will depart every 20 minutes and will ply Yishun Avenue 2, Yishun Avenue 7, Sembawang Road (Sembawang Shopping Centre), Sembawang Way (Sembawang MRT station) and Woodlands Avenue 9 before calling at the immigration checkpoints and City Square Mall in JB.

A flat fare of S$2 is charged in Singapore. Payment by ez-link cards are accepted. In JB, passengers can opt to pay RM2 in cash, but those using their ez-link cards will still be charged S$2. At Yishun Interchange, service AC7 shares the boarding berth queue with SMRT services 171 and 812, near the passenger service counter.

Operating hours for service AC7:
From Yishun Interchange:
0545 – 2330 hours (Mon-Sat), 0600 – 2330 hours (Sun & P.H.)
From Kotaraya II Terminal:
0500 – 2350 hours (Mon-Sat), 0540 – 2350 hours (Sun & P.H.)

The launch of service AC7 marks the entry of Advance Coach as the latest player in the regular public bus service sector. It follows the earlier introduction of Transtar’s cross-border services TS1 and TS8 from Changi Airport and Resorts World Sentosa respectively.

SMRT launches second bus service duplicating MRT line November 5, 2010

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TIB469P on Express service 868 along Fullerton Road.

TIB469P on SMRT Express service 868 along Fullerton Road. Photo courtesy of Muhd Faizal.

Following SBS Transit’s service 128 (Yio Chu Kang to Shenton Way), SMRT introduced the second MRT-duplicating bus service in the form of Express service 868. Similar to most Premium bus services, Express 868 runs only in a one-directional route from Bukit Gombak to Suntec City on weekday mornings.

There are currently two trips, with buses departing the bus stop outside Blk 347 along Bukit Batok West Avenue 5 at 7:30 and 7:45 AM, bypassing the Bukit Batok Polyclinic and Toh Guan Road enroute before hitting the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) to get to Robinson Road one hour later.

Loads from Bukit Batok during the first month of operation have been light, with majority of the passengers boarding from Toh Guan estate instead. With Express 868, residents of Toh Guan now have two options to get to the CBD, with SBS Transit’s Premium 543 being the other. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them have migrated over from 543 to 868, given that both head to the same destination but with 868 charging a significantly cheaper Express fare!

Buses for Express 868 come under the purview of SMRT’s Kranji Depot.

Introductory poster and press release

Increased coverage for SMRT bus 922 in Bukit Panjang town February 27, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Route Amendment, SMRT.
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Mercedes Benz OC500LE on service 922.

Service 922 will no longer serve the bus stops along Saujana Road, as illustrated above. Photo credit: Muhd Faizal.

SMRT has finally seemed to realise the ridicule in running a feeder bus service half-heartedly – and still losing money in the process – and is instead making a radical change to feeder bus service 922 serving residents of Bukit Panjang town.

The route amendment, to take effect from Sunday 28 February, will see the service cover the whole stretch of Jelapang Road (Greenridge Shopping Centre), Segar Road and Fajar Road (Fajar Neighbourhood Shopping Centre) before looping in the same manner as service 920 at Bangkit Road.

The change will see residents jumping for joy as they now have convenient bus links to places which are previously bus-less or just served by the (still unprofitable) Bukit Panjang LRT system, such as the Fajar neighbourhood shopping centre. Segar Road residents will enjoy a direct link to the market and shops at Bangkit Road as well as the prominent Al-Iman mosque.

The most important question though would be: would the frequency of the bus service, currently at half hour intervals or longer, be improved? That remains to be seen, but what is already known is that one more bus would join TIB737R as part of the 922 fleet and so this should be seen as something positive. Unless of course, this whole route change is yet another half-hearted service “improvement”  aimed at appeasing some quarters (like the MP perhaps?).

Click here for the press release poster.

Even more SMRT public bus services to Resorts World Sentosa? January 24, 2010

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Will new SMRT bus service 188R be a reality soon?

Will new SMRT bus service 188R be a reality soon?

You know something isn’t right when SMRT is willing to introduce new route 963R from Woodlands to Resorts World Sentosa, but is not doing so for its other successful HarbourFront route.

Yes, I’m talking about service 188 running from Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok and Toh Guan to HarbourFront which, like service 963, also has a weekday peak-hour Express variant 188E.

Reliable sources have informed me that drivers from SMRT’s Kranji bus depot (where service 188 is based at) are already learning the route of 188R, which will essentially be something like Express 188E, calling at limited stops along the way and charging Express fares.

Perhaps the company would be using service 963R as a test route to study its demand patterns etc before launching even more routes.

Just what else is SMRT having up its sleeves? All I know is that I’m very excited to find out!

Resorts World Sentosa engages SMRT to run its shuttle bus services January 21, 2010

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Resorts World Sentosa

Resorts World Sentosa

Genting-owned Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) created headlines for beating Sheldon Anderson’s Marina Bay Sands to be the first of the two integrated resorts in Singapore to open for business, albeit partially. As of now, only four hotels as well as a handful of shops including the world-famous Victoria’s Secret lingerie chain have opened their doors to the public. (By the way, the outlet in Singapore is the only one outside the US and Canada, so its hush-hush debut has puzzled many but I shall not dwell further on this here haha.) Its retail strip dubbed Festive Walk, casino and the much hyped about full-fledged Universal Studios Singapore theme park – a first for Southeast Asia – will open in stages once the regulatory approvals have been obtained.

Further headlines were made when it was announced that the integrated resort would be fed with shuttle bus services run by Singapore’s smaller public bus operator SMRT, instead of local giant ComfortDelGro. Adding more twist to the awkwardness is the decision taken by taxi companies Comfort and CityCab (part of ComfortDelGro) to not introduce a surcharge of $3 for all taxi trips departing the resort’s main taxi stop, despite other smaller operators doing the same. This is a complete about-turn from industry practice when the others simply follow the lead of Big Daddy. Whether this will backfire on the company or instead successfully distinguishes itself as the cheaper taxi choice for visitors remains to be seen.

SMRT's SMB 38C is one of the first to adorn an allover Resorts World Sentosa advertisement. It is seen here at the Basement carpark of RWS operating shuttle bus route RWS 8.

SMRT's SMB 38C is one of the first buses to adorn an allover Resorts World Sentosa advertisement. It is seen here at the Basement carpark of RWS operating shuttle bus route RWS 8. Photo courtesy of Teo Wei Shen.

Getting on with SMRT, the company has virtual monopoly in terms of public bus services into Resorts World Sentosa at the moment. The main shuttle bus service RWS 8 connecting the resort with VivoCity and the nearest train station at HarbourFront is already up and running, with two more RWS shuttle services as well as one new express service 963R and the extension of current NightRider services NR1 and NR6 set to follow from next weekend. The following gives a summary of the bus services into Resorts World Sentosa:

Bus service Where When Fare
RWS 8
HarbourFront shuttle
From bus stops outside VivoCity, HarbourFront MRT station and before Seah Im Road along Telok Blangah Road. From Jan 20 (Wed)

From RWS:
Daily from 6am to 11.30pm

S$2
– Inbound trip only
RWS 88
City Hall shuttle
From bus stop opposite The Adelphi along Coleman Street (City Hall MRT station). From Jan 30 (Sat)

Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays

From RWS:
8am to 11pm

From City Hall MRT:
7am to 11pm

S$2
– Inbound and outbound trips
RWS 68
Outram Park shuttle
From bus stop outside Outram Park MRT station along Outram Road. To be confirmed To be confirmed
SMRT Express service 963R From Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange, calling at selected bus stops along route of parent service 963 in Bukit Panjang, Hillview, Bukit Batok and Clementi. From Jan 30 (Sat)

Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays

From Woodlands:
7am to 10pm

From RWS:
8.30am to 11.30pm

CEPAS cards:
S$1.50 to S$2.25

Cash:
S$1.60 to S$2.35

SMRT NightRider service NR1 From bus stops currently served by service NR1 in Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Toa Payoh, Novena, Orchard Road, Clarke Quay, Suntec City and HarbourFront. From Jan 29 (Fri)

Fridays, Saturdays and eves of public holidays from 11.30pm to 4.25am

S$3.50

- Free transfer to another NightRider service within 45 minutes of alighting for CEPAS card payment only.

SMRT NightRider service NR6 From bus stops currently served by service NR6 in Sengkang, Hougang, Serangoon, Little India, Orchard Road, Clarke Quay, Suntec City and HarbourFront. From Jan 29 (Fri)

Fridays, Saturdays and eves of public holidays from 11.30pm to 4.35am

S$3.50

- Free transfer to another NightRider service within 45 minutes of alighting for CEPAS card payment only.

 

Another view of SMB 38C on shuttle service RWS 8. Photo courtesy of Teo Wei Shen.

Another view, this time of SMB 29D on shuttle service RWS 8. Photo courtesy of Teo Wei Shen.

While the RWS shuttles are contracted to SMRT, I can’t help but detect some form of subtle long-time competition in the works here in the form of RWS 68 and RWS 88. The services connect RWS with Outram Park and City Hall MRT stations, both of which belongs to SMRT. Although the Outram Park interchange station is shared between both SMRT and SBS Transit, the designated pick-up/drop-off point is along Outram Road, which is where the SMRT-managed entrance to the station is. Obviously, it is aimed at feeding more passengers into their train network, or at the very least, trying to reduce the number of visitors utilising SBS Transit’s Northeast Line to HarbourFront station.

But with fares going at $2 one-way for the City Hall and proposed Outram Park shuttles, it is going to be a little difficult for SMRT to convince visitors to stray away from RWS 8 to HarbourFront, which only charges $2 for the inbound trip into the resort. In other words, it’s free of charge for the ride back to HarbourFront.

Regardless, SMRT has commisioned a couple of its newest buses – the wheelchair-accessible Mercedes Benz OC500LE in modified Gemilang bodywork – to work on the RWS shuttles. Some have already adorned full-body RWS advertisements in red, which coincidentally suits SMRT’s corporate colours as well.

Detractors however have criticised at such a move by the company. They claimed these wheelchair-accessible buses should have instead be used to launch more wheelchair-accessible bus services within its network. Indeed, compared to rival SBS Transit, SMRT only has a handful of wheelchair-accessible bus services utilising its fleet of 135 wheelchair-accessible buses. Furthermore, SMRT should focus on improving its basic bus services first before venturing into other contract work such as this.

Yes, their concerns are valid. However, they fail to see that the introduction of Express service 963R and extension of NightRiders NR1 and NR6 into RWS are indeed basic bus service enhancements rather than contract work. The fares charged may be higher, but for those who will enjoy the convenience offered, surely that will be the last thing they will think of. Also, utilising a few wheelchair-accessible buses as a showcase to global visitors surely will leave a better-lasting impression of Singapore which will very much offset the opportunity cost of say, converting one bus route into a wheelchair-accessible one. It is not the case of SMRT maxing out all the wheelchair-accessible buses in its fleet solely for the RWS commitments.

And regardless of public opinion, the fact remains that SMRT has got to boost the bottomline for its lacklustre bus business. After all, it has to answer to its shareholders if it doesn’t perform up to the mark. As such, bus charter work has been a good source of alternative revenue and the company knows this. It managed to beat private bus operators which generally charge cheaper charter rates to clinch charter work for various organisations with the most obvious being the IKEA shuttle services which has been going on for some time. And it definitely aims to keep this momentum going with the Singapore Airshow 2010.

Public bus services aside, at least one coach operator already has concrete plans to launch new routes into Resorts World Sentosa. This is none other than Malaysia’s Odyssey Prestige Coaches which is currently running frequent express coach services between the Grand Copthorne Hotel in Whitley Road to Avenue K and Mont Kiara in Kuala Lumpur (and which I will be writing a review about soon). Detailed information has yet to be released but its plans have already been made public not only on its Facebook page but also at its ticketing counter in Grand Copthorne Hotel.

Exciting developments are definitely stirring in this coming year and I wouldn’t be surprised if the opening of Marina Bay Sands would yield even more surprises!

Related links:
SMRT official press release
Resorts World Sentosa transport guide

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