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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.

SMRT, Brickston likely to run Singapore’s first hybrid buses November 15, 2009

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LATEST UPDATE:

ST Kinetics has announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between itself, King Long Singapore and Brickston Transport Services which will see Brickston becoming Singapore’s first bus company to trial a fleet of King Long low-floor city buses fitted with ST Kinetics’ hyPower hybrid electric technology.

Why private operator Brickston seems to be so keen in getting these low-floor city buses remains a question though, since it currently deals mainly with coach charter services such as worker transport. It could be just a way to reduce costs (since the hybrid bus has proven to be able to save up to 30% in fuel consumption) or the start of bigger things to come – like bidding for public bus services when the industry is opened up in the near future.

View the press release here.

King Long hybrid bus in Singapore.

ST article photo, scanned by Lau Kai Guan.

THE DIESEL-ELECTRIC BUSES CONSUME 30% LESS FUEL AND ARE DISABLED-FRIENDLY

JUST a week after a taxi operator rolled out Singapore’s first hybrid taxis, two green buses are set to hit the roads here.

The buses, which run on a combination of diesel and battery power, are said to use up to 30 per cent less fuel than conventional ones.

As a result, their tailpipe emissions, which are harmful to the environment, will also be cut.

The buses, assembled in China, were the result of a joint venture led by ST Kinetics, a Singapore engineering company better known for its military vehicles.

ST Kinetics teamed up with two other companies to make the hybrid buses: Chinese bus-maker King Long, which supplied the chassis, and ALP Energy, which supplied the lithium battery management system.

The latter is owned by Singapore-born businessman Lim Loong Keng, who is now a Canadian.

ST Kinetics is currently in talks with two bus operators about running trials for the buses.

The Straits Times understands they are SMRT Corp and Brickston Transport, a company whose main business is ferrying factory workers.

ST Kinetics hopes to convince the two firms of the buses’ viability during the trial, and hopes they will order more such coaches in future.

Brickston’s owner Colin Gan, 50, is already swayed by the prospect of lower running costs. ‘First and foremost, it can save fuel. And then it’s also green.

‘I’ve told them, if everything is set, I’m prepared to take 10 coaches.’

An SMRT spokesman would say only that the firm was ‘studying the feasibility of adding eco-friendly alternatives, including hybrid buses, to our bus fleet’.

ST Kinetics has dabbled in so-called ‘alternative energy’ vehicles in the past. Since 1997, it has invested more than $80 million in start-ups dealing with such vehicles in the United States, China and South Korea.

Last year, it had a commercial breakthrough when it delivered a fleet of hybrid baggage tow trucks to Changi Airport. In electric mode, the trucks were found to be suitable for the enclosed, air-conditioned areas they often operate in.

The two hybrid buses will be the first diesel-electric vehicles to ply public roads here. The hybrid cars and taxis here are petrol-electric.

Besides their green credentials, the buses also comply with the latest government requirements for public buses – they provide wheelchair-accessibility, for example.

The one drawback of the buses: Cost. At $500,000 apiece, they are between 25 per cent and 30 per cent more expensive than conventional buses.

Bus operators The Straits Times spoke to cited this as a potential hurdle to adopting the vehicles. The uncertainty of the new technology is another, they added.

However, ST Kinetics general manager Mah Chi Jui pointed out that the vehicles’ lower fuel costs mean long-term savings for the operators.

A bus company would take just three years to recoup the extra money spent on a green bus, he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s biggest bus company, SBS Transit, said it is also exploring the possibility of buying hybrid buses.

The company has some experience with green buses – SBS Transit already runs 12 compressed natural gas variants here.

In addition, its parent group, ComfortDelGro Corp, owns London public bus operator Metroline, which is currently trying out five hybrid buses there.

A ComfortDelGro spokesman said the London trials have been successful.

Between them, SBS Transit and SMRT operate close to 4,000 buses. There are another 2,500 or so private buses with 35 seats or more. The vast majority run on diesel.

The Straits Times, page B1, Saturday November 14 2009

SMRT brings in Southeast Asia’s first Mercedes Benz Citaro! November 6, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Fleet News, SMRT, Something New, Transport Events.
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Singapore's first Mercedes Benz Citaro.

A sneak peek at Southeast Asia's first Mercedes Benz Citaro. Photo courtesy of Ho Kok Pern.

Singapore’s bus enthusiasts got all excited this week after learning that the country’s second biggest public bus operator – SMRT Buses – has brought in what everyone has been wishing for: the award-winning Mercedes Benz Citaro citybus!

The Mercedes-Benz Citaro (or O530) is the current Mercedes-Benz/EvoBus mainstream bus intended for public transport, introduced in 1997 and replaced the Mercedes-Benz O405/O405N series. Manufactured in Mannheim (Germany), Ligny-en-Barrois (France) and Sámano (Spain), it features a low floor for easy access.

There is currently one unit resting within the Cycle & Carriage compounds in Teban Gardens. Word has it that it has been imported wholesale from Germany and is awaiting modifications to meet local specifications before hitting the roads. While there are no SMRT logos on the bus, one will definitely not go wrong guessing which company it belongs to from the common red, black and white livery already applied on its body.

Daimler’s press release confirmed SMRT’s order for 66 units of the bus, which features the BlueTec diesel technology already widely used in Europe.

BlueTec in Asia

Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) is the first company in Southeast Asia to put Mercedes-Benz urban buses with BlueTec 5 into operation in short-distance public transport. This means that the BlueTec diesel technology so successfully introduced by Daimler in Europe now also has a presence in Asia. And with an order for 66 Mercedes-Benz Citaro BlueTec urban buses that meet the stringent Euro 5 exhaust standard, the SMRT Corporation in Singapore is setting new benchmarks in Southeast Asia.

This is the third wheelchair-accessible bus model to be brought in by SMRT in the last two years. The first came in the form of Mercedes Benz OC500LEs in Gemilang bodywork, with the second being Singapore’s first Chinese public citybus – a Yutong ZK6126.

Further details with regards to this bus will be posted on this website as and when updates stream in.

You may read more about this bus here.

First Chinese citybus for Singapore: SMRT’s Yutong ZK6126 August 23, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Deployment Updates, Fleet News, SMRT, Something New, Transport Events.
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SMRT's Yutong citybus on service 854 turning into Yishun bus interchange. Photo courtesy of Muhd Faizal.

SMRT's Yutong citybus on service 854 turning into Yishun bus interchange. Photo courtesy of Muhd Faizal.

It was bound to happen sooner or later: a made-in-China public citybus serving the commuters of Singapore. With significant differences over the cost of each unit as compared to their European counterparts, it is difficult for bus companies to ignore the possibility of saving a few bucks from their bus purchases. In Singapore, there has been a growing number of local bus companies opting for Chinese coaches, with brand names like King Long and Yutong slowly becoming a more common sight on the roads. So the question then was, when will the first Chinese citybus be brought in?

The answer came in August this year, when Singapore’s second largest public bus company SMRT Buses, registered the country’s first made-in-China citybus, a Yutong ZK6126, on 18th August as SMB135E. As with common practice, newly registered buses usually took quite a while after formal registration to begin revenue service. However the company seemed eager to put this demonstrator bus on trial quickest possible, resulting in the the bus commencing its first official revenue service on service 854 only two days later on the 20th.

Ang Mo Kio Depot-controlled route 854 is a very busy service running between Yishun and Bedok via Yio Chu Kang Road, Hougang Avenue 3 and Jalan Eunos, and has been a long time competitor for SBS Transit’s service 25. The 854 itself has been a favourite in being the first to get a taste of new buses brought in by then TIBS, be it the ELBO Scanias or the Volgren Hino demonstrator TIB905Y.

The interior of the Yutong as seen from the entrance. Photo courtesy of Teo Wei Shen.

The interior of the Yutong as seen from the entrance. Photo courtesy of Teo Wei Shen.

Having taken many Chinese buses run by RapidKL myself, my expectations for the Yutong were never high. For instance, I had expected the bus ride to be very noisy and bumpy, and maybe a little stuffy – in line with the general public perception that all things made in China are never top-notch. But all those thoughts were banished the moment I took my seat on one of their leather seats which were wider than the usual Vogelsitzes. Almost every passenger taking a seat would produce this funny farting sound when they rubbed against it but nonetheless, the seats are more comfortable than they look. There was also rather reasonable legroom, though the whole experience can be improved if the seats were a little reclined.

The other most important aspect of a good bus ride I look after is the airconditioning. The Yutong is the first such citybus here to feature a single length series of aircon outlets which greatly helped to distribute the cool temperature across the whole bus. The idea is similar to the kind of experience you get onboard aircrafts. No more tissue paper stuffed aircon outlets! The only aircon outlets in the bus were found at the last row of seats; four on each side, but they proved disappointing. When I tried my favourite rightmost seat at the last row, only my legs were feeling cool from the more evenly distributed aircon from the front row onwards. And whatever the brand of aircon is, it sure is good. And I hope it lasts.

Interior of SMB135E as seen from the last row of four seats.

Interior of SMB135E as seen from the last row of four seats.

The other notable difference for this 29-seater bus is the last row of seats which were occupied by only four seats placed side to side, instead of the typical five, or the two-space-two arrangement in other Chinese citybuses by RapidKL. Whether the reason lies with the wider seats or accomodation for the engine whatnots I’m not too sure but if they could, they should have inserted that fifth seat.

The Cummins engine used was not too bad, powerful enough for the bus to speed and climb hills effortlessly during my ride. Suspension was surprisingly good, as I’m told the bus uses the air suspension system compared to leaf-springs commonly used for their coach counterparts here. Both doors however, were a little slow to open and close. But the rear plug door was a little irritating as it was squeaking (somebody oil the door please!) but it did not vibrate as much as other plug doors as the part of the mechanism controlling its movement was hidden underneath the wheelchair ramp. In addition to the usual SMRT “Doors closing” announcement when the doors were closing, a warning chime accompanied it as well, and this proved extremely annoying.

Illustrating the difference in electronic displays is the Yutong SMB135E on the right and the now familiar Mercedes Benz OC500LE SMB49X on the left parked at Bedok bus interchange.

Illustrating the difference in electronic displays is the Yutong SMB135E on the right and the now familiar Mercedes Benz OC500LE SMB49X on the left parked at Bedok bus interchange.

Aesthetically, the interior looks better than SBS Transit’s Scania K230UBs despite the dull brown leather seats accompanied with a few red coloured ones at the front. This could be mainly due to the green aircon strips at the sides, making up and maybe mixing well with the beige tones. The low ceiling warnings at the back was big and loud enough to attract attention. CCTV cameras have been installed, and so are EIGHT speakers throughout the length of the bus, whatever for I have not a single hint, since the recorded SMRT announcements do not seem to be any louder. Of the two ez-link card readers at the exit, the one on the left hand side was place a little too high, not good for short people like myself 😛

On the exterior, the greatest disappointment were the very small electronic displays, even though it was good enough SMRT did not opt for the typical calculator digits displays used by many mainland Chinese bus companies. Of something to note is that it is the first SMRT bus to have destination display at the offside, something which has been practised by SBS Transit for ages, but is the first bus in Singapore to have a number cum destination display at the rear as well. I’m quite pleased with the bodywork, especially the rear design and having glass windows all the way up at the sides (like the Mercedes Benz Citaros), but not too impressed with the front though, as something more creative could have been done to the area below the windscreen.

Offside view of the Yutong picking up passengers at Yishun bus interchange. Photo courtesy of Muhd Faizal.

Offside view of the Yutong picking up passengers at Yishun bus interchange. Photo courtesy of Muhd Faizal.

In conclusion, I am rather surprised with myself that I kinda like SMB135E. It is definitely far from the typical stereotypes of substandards for made-in-China buses even I had despite the areas that can be improved upon. And if SMRT thinks the same way as me, do not be surprised if this Mercedes Benz loyal customer switches to Yutong and probably other Chinese manufacturers for future fleet renewals.

I hereby give this bus a 4 out of 5 stars rating. At least for now.

For other reviews on this bus, do visit:

http://offservice.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/smrt-yutong-2/
http://thecoloursofmyworld.blogspot.com/2009/08/review-smrts-yutong-zk6126hgc.html
http://minibusgrp.com/?p=566
http://tws4793.t35.com/buses/p_sin_smrt/yutong_zk6126.html

SBS Transit buys Wrightbus Volvo B9TL double decks! August 22, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Fleet News, Random Shots, SBS Transit, Something New.
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This was expected: SBS Transit announced the purchase of 150 units of Volvo B9TL double deckers.

This wasn’t: The buses will be bodied by Wrightbus, a first for Singapore buses! (like finally)

After the great disappointment with the Scania K230UBs, the company has finally seemed to redeem itself not just by opting to replace its older Leyland Olympians with more B9TLs (instead of the anticipated Scania K310UD). Chances are they will be fitted with WrigthBus’ Eclipse Gemini II bodywork whch is essentially the refined version of the Eclipse Gemini already a common sight in London and Hong Kong.

A glimpse of SBS Transit's future Volvo B9TL double decks in Wrightbus bodywork, similar to this first version worn by a First London bus on route 23 in Central London.

A glimpse of SBS Transit's future Volvo B9TL double decks in Wrightbus bodywork, similar to this first version worn by a First London bus on route 23 in Central London.

Amidst the cheer, the dampener came swiftly with the simultaneous announcement that the company will purchase an additional 200 Scania K230UBs. Hopefully they wouldn’t come in the same old dull Gemilang bodywork. The current 900 units zipping across town is already one too many.

Click on the following to view the official press releases by the companies involved:

SBS Transit – SBS Transit Invests $ 159 million In New Buses; Half of its Bus Fleet Will Be New By 2010
…The new buses, which are expected to roll out in 2010, are from two Swedish bus manufacturers – Scania and Volvo. The Scania order involving 200 single–deck Euro V buses is worth an estimated $ 72 million while the Volvo order of 150 double–deck Euro V buses is worth about $ 87 million…

Volvo – Singapore orders 150 Volvo double-deckers
…The order is for 150 double-deckers built on the Volvo B9TL chassis. The chassis will be produced in Borås, Sweden, while the bodywork that is to be made by Wrightbus will be mounted in Singapore. Deliveries will occur in 2010…

Scania – Intensive period for Scania’s city bus sales
…The single largest order is from Singapore, where operator SBS transit has ordered 200 more buses for delivery between November 2009 and May 2010. Since 2007, SBS Transit has ordered a total of 1,100 city buses from Scania, making the company one of Scania’s biggest bus customers in the world today…

Route 79 gets double deckers December 13, 2008

Posted by hafizbam in Deployment Updates, Fleet News, SBS Transit, Something New.
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SBS9207M on route 79 leaving Jurong East Interchange

SBS9207M on route 79 leaving Jurong East Interchange

An unlikely recipient of double deck buses is the industrial route 79 running from Jurong East Interchange to Penjuru and Chin Bee before looping at Boon Lay Interchange.

The one and only SBS9207M is based at Soon Lee Depot.

This follows a string of traditionally single deck fleet services such as the 6, 58, 151 and 225 which received their first double decks earlier this year.