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Hello 2010… Goodbye TVMobile! January 3, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Miscellaneous, SBS Transit, Site News, Transport Events.
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End of an era - no more TVMobile in buses.

End of an era - no more TVMobile in buses.

The year 2009 ended on a good note, well, for local public transport at least. The airconditioned Boon Lay bus interchange finally commenced operations and even better, the much-hated TVMobile finally ceased airing in buses. Yup, that means no more noise to disturb your bus journeys with SBS Transit. While the fate of the hundreds of television monitors remain unknown, this might be a good opportunity for SBS Transit to trial an in-bus visual passenger information system without incurring too high a start-up cost.

Regardless, 2010 might prove to be just the year I’ve been looking forward to – if LTA finally takes over the role of central bus planner. They seem to be taking far too much time in getting the ball rolling since the series of radical changes to the public transport network were made public a couple of years back.

In the meantime though, where Singapore Bus Page is concerned, I would like to thank all you readers out there for helping to boost the number of visits to this site. It’s just the push I needed to keep the site running. Do stay tuned for more transport reviews in addition to the regular news bites you may not get elsewhere. As always, any tip-off or contribution is greatly encouraged!

Happy 2010!

Boon Lay bus interchange to shift in December December 13, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Miscellaneous, SBS Transit, SMRT, Something New, Transport Events.
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SMRT routes 172, 178, 180 and 187 will be diverted to ply Boon Lay Way and Jurong West Street 64 to access the new Boon Lay interchange.

And it has finally been confirmed: the new airconditioned Boon Lay bus interchange will commence operations from Sunday 27 December 2009.

The new bus interchange is seamlessly integrated with the expanded Jurong Point shopping centre, which is now affectionately known as JP2, as well as to The Centris condominium above it.

There will be both saw-tooth and end-on berths in the interchange, with both entrances/exits along Jurong West Central 3.

SMRT posters for its affected routes 172, 178, 180 and 187 have been put up.

Slow start to free Orchard Road shuttle service December 6, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Miscellaneous, Private operators, Something New, Transport Events.
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The Great Trolley Orchard Road free shuttle bus service


The free shuttle bus service plying Orchard Road costs $18,000 a month to operate but it is off to a slow start.

Not many shoppers have been making use of it and few seemed to be aware of the service even when the bus pulled up to the bus stop they were at.

Last Tuesday, the Orchard Road Business Association launched the free service called The Great Trolley, linking popular malls like Ion Orchard, Plaza Singapura and The Heeren.

The striking black-and-white buses run from 11am to 10pm daily, and will do so until February next year. Operating at five-minute intervals, they ply 11 stops along Orchard Road, Orchard Boulevard, Somerset Road and Tanglin.

But the buses remain largely empty for now – in stark contrast to the packed public buses along the same route.

Shuttle bus driver Tan Hai Tow, 61, said he had only two or three passengers per trip when The Sunday Times hopped on last Thursday.

“It’s such a convenient service but nobody knows about it because there are no signs at the bus stops,” he said.

“When I reach a bus stop, people just stare at the bus without getting on.”

Commuters admitted they did not know about the free rides.

“I would have got on if I knew it could take me to Plaza Singapura,” said Kelly Ong, 18, a student who was waiting for a bus outside Delfi Orchard.

Another commuter, a German tourist in her 50s, pointed out that the map of the shuttle-bus route could be seen only at the back of the bus.

“By the time I saw it, it was too late to get on,” she said.

No other free service plying Orchard Road is available at the moment.

Other shuttle buses, like the one that goes to Great World City, make only one stop along Orchard Road.

The Orchard Road Business Association, which is paying for the cost of running the buses, said the 30-seater air-conditioned buses are aimed at encouraging shoppers to visit different malls in the area.

Two buses were hired from a private bus operator for this purpose, and more effort will be made in coming weeks to promote the rides.

“We’ll be roping in the malls and hotels to put up information about the buses,” said spokesman Steven Goh.

“Hopefully, it will catch on when word of mouth spreads. If it turns out to be successful, we might continue the service beyond February.”

– The Sunday Times, page 16, December 6 2009

The reporter surely made a grave mistake by reporting the service to be operating at a frequency of 5 minutes – which is too good to be true anyway. It is actually being run every 30 minutes, but takes about 5 minutes to hop from one shopping mall to another.

And sometimes, the best way to grab as much attention is not to wrap the bus with an allover white with not a single mention of it being a free shuttle bus. Follow what other shopping mall owners have been doing with their own free shuttles. Just paint the buses in attention-grabbing bright and striking colours with large bolded words that scream “FREE ORCHARD ROAD SHUTTLE BUS”.

That will at least prompt curious commuters at the bus stops to ask the driver for details, and not just shoot the driver with killer stares.

More information, including timetables and details of boarding/alighting points can be obtained at the Orchard Association Business Association’s website.

While getting stuck in the Great Orchard Road Year-end Traffic Jam is not really your idea of spending the weekend along the shopping belt, do give this bus service a try and hopefully, it will continue to run on a permanent basis.

And at a better frequency.

Bus stops get new sign poles December 5, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Miscellaneous, Private operators, SBS Transit, SMRT, Something New, Transport Events.
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The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has replaced 1,430 bus stop sign poles with snazzier and more prominent ones that cost $1,000 each.

By March next year, all 4,500 bus stops islandwide will have the new sign poles, costing a total of $4.5 million.

The roll-out came soon after the authority finished canvassing for public feedback on the new design in end-August.

The new sign poles feature a schematic symbol of Singapore island, which can be spotted at all train stations too.

Besides displaying the bus services commuters can flag down, the sign poles will also have location names – usually that of a road, landmark or a nearby building.

Like existing bus stop sign poles, they will also each have a five-digit bus stop code which commuters can use to retrieve bus arrival information via SMS or the Internet.

The LTA added that the public can also use the code to provide feedback on a particular bus stop.

Where necessary, the new sign poles will include a notice board to give commuters additional bus service information, such as connection to an MRT station.

The decision to embark on the extensive replacement exercise was taken after the LTA conducted a review in February last year. The authority  found that 60 per cent of Singapore’s bus stop poles were showing signs of wear.

And another 39.5 per cent of the poles were already 10 years old. Only 21 bus stop poles, or 0.5 per cent of the total number of poles, were relatively new, the LTA said.

“As the majority of the bus stop poles needed to be replaced, this is a good time to improve the design of the poles,” said Mr Chan Kwok Cheong, LTA director of public transport promotion and services.

“The replaced poles will have more distinctive coloured sign plates and bigger bus service numbers. This will make it easier for commuters, especially senior citizens, to read them,” he added.

According to the LTA, the new poles are designed to last at least 20 years.

School teacher Tristan Yeo, 24, said the new sign poles are aesthetically pleasing. “It is an attempt to infuse something symbolic of Singapore in the design,” he said. “Quite nice.”

–  The Straits Times, page B7, Saturday November 29 2009

While I applaud the bus stop pole replacement exercise, there are a few flaws to the design:

– For those with additional information boards, there is no pole space left for bus companies to tie their cardboard press release notices to. This is unlike the old bus stop poles which is practically empty from middle down.

– The bus service numbers are colour-coded according to the bus company running the route; red for SBS Transit and grey for SMRT Buses, as well as a variety of other colour combinations for other special services and even Scheme B routes. While I have no problems with differentiating basic services from special ones, there should not be any differences between SBS Transit and SMRT basic bus services as the bigger notice board(s) planted within the bus stop shelter itself already has colour coding complete with detailed route information. Furthermore, with LTA’s overhaul of the bus network, bus routes may swop operator control every now and then. To repeatedly change the colour codes for all the bus stop poles along the affected routes is not exactly cost-effective.

– The prominent location names and bus stop codes are good additions/improvements and makes it easier for commuters using the various real-time bus arrival information services provided by SBS Transit and LTA. Standardisation of information displays also helps make it easier for commuters make more informed decisions.

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

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Fleet News, Miscellaneous, Private operators, SBS Transit, SMRT, Something New, Transport Events.
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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.


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

Price-fixing: Coach companies fined; Transtar Travel received highest penalty November 4, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Express Coach, Miscellaneous, Transport Events.
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A Transtar Travel coach.

A Transtar Travel coach. Transtar's fine is the highest among the 17 parties involved. Photo by mynetbizz.



Sixteen coach operators plying between Singapore and Malaysia and their association have been fined S$1.69 million for price-fixing.

The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) has found the companies and the Executive Bus Agencies Association (EBAA) guilty of setting a minimum price for coach tickets sold here and for a fuel and insurance surcharge on each ticket.

This collusion took place between 2006 and June last year.

The fines, ranging from $10,000 to $518,167, are pegged to the company’s size and the amount earned from the price-fixing.

The total fine is the biggest penalty handed down by the CCS, which promotes healthy competition in the various industries and administers the Competition Act.

In the only other time it has wielded its powers, it fined six pest exterminators a total of $263,000 for bid-rigging in January last year.

In the latest case, the EBAA, which represents 26 coach operators with 60 per cent of the market share, instituted a minimum ticket price for tickets to destinations in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Genting Highlands.

This minimum price, first set at $25 in 2005 for a one-way ticket to Kuala Lumpur, edged up to $29 over the years.

Until that $25 minimum price was set, most of these coach companies were charging $20 or $23. A spokesman for one of the companies told the CCS that they were managing to cover their costs even at the lower price, except profits were thinner.

The coach companies said in their defence that they agreed to this minimum price to forestall a price war among themselves.

This cut no ice with the CCS. In its judgement report, it said the practice amounted to “blatant price-fixing”, which deprived consumers of the “efficiencies and innovation” which result when healthy business rivalry prevails.

Although some companies chose to charge less than the minimum agreed upon, the CCS deemed them just as liable because they had been party to the price-fixing.

On the matter of the levying of a fuel and insurance surcharge, the CCS also found out that the EBAA bought insurance policies in bulk at 30 cents, sold them to its members at 50 cents, and then directed them to levy a surcharge – $2 extra in the case of Kuala Lumpur-bound passengers. Over the years, the surcharge was raised to $8.

EBAA spokesman Sebastian Yap, pointing out that the surcharge also covered higher fuel prices, added: “Business has been hit by budget airlines and H1N1. We are just trying to help our members meet costs.”

All parties involved have since stopped imposing the minimum selling price and the surcharge.

Transtar Travel, which received the highest penalty, said it would appeal against the fine.

Konsortium Express & Tours also said it would appeal; Grassland said it would not, while Five Stars Tours and the EBAA were undecided.

The Consumers Association of Singapore’s executive director Seah Seng Choon said the fines send out a “strong signal” about the unacceptability of price collusion.

“Pleading ignorance is no excuse and the law has been there for a long time,” he said. He called on trade associations to educate their members on the Competition Act.

Investigations of the coach companies followed a report in Lianhe Zaobao about the fuel charges levied by coach companies. The CCS found damning evidence in the EBAA’s minutes of meetings and in interviews with EBAA members.

All parties in the latest case have two months to pay the fines. They may, with the CCS’ approval, pay them in instalments.

The CCS has looked into 98 cases of possible infringements of the Act; investigations have been completed for 74, and 24 are still being probed.

– The Straits Times, page A3, Wednesday November 4 2009

Breakdown of penalties imposed:

1. Transtar Travel – $518,617
2. Five Stars Tours – $450,207
3. Konsortium Express & Tours – $337,635
4. Regent Star Travel – $103,875
5. Gunung Raya Travel – $76,668
6. GR Travel – $52,432
7. Grassland Express & Tours – $ 27,706
8. Sri Maju Tours & Travel – $ 24,600
9. Enjoy Holiday Tour – $23,425
10. WTS Travel & Tours – $13,611
11. Alisan – $10,807
12. Travelzone Network Services – $10,000
13. T&L Tours – $10,000
14. Nam Ho Travel Service – $10,000
15. Lapan Lapan Travel – $10,000
16. Luxury Tours & Travel – $10,000
17. Express Bus Agencies Association – $10,000

TOTAL: S$1,699,133

A big win for the budget airlines competing in the same markets, especially the Singapore – Kuala Lumpur route, now that potential customers will think twice about where their money is going to. Nevertheless, with lower fares and more point-to-point services, demand for express coach services should not be hit too hard by this bad publicity.

I’m just wondering if I had been charged more than I should for the Transtar ticket I just bought. Hmm…