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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

Hello 2010… Goodbye TVMobile! January 3, 2010

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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

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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.

New premium shuttle bus to MRT for Serangoon residents December 13, 2009

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PREMIUM BUS SERVICE CHARGES A FLAT FARE OF $1.20 AND WILL SAVE RESIDENTS LONG TREKS

For years, getting to the nearest MRT station has been a hot, tiresome, 30-minute affair for Ms Amy Zhang.

The 36-year old Chinese expatriate lives in Glasgow Road, along Upper Serangoon Road. To get to work, she has to walk to the main road to catch a bus to the Serangoon MRT station and from there take the train to her workplace in Bugis.

But from tomorrow, her long treks will be a thing of the past.

The Hillside Rosyth Neighbourhood Committee (NC) has teamed up with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and a private bus operator to launch a premium bus service for the private residential area.

This will provide much-needed relief for non-drivers like Ms Zhang.

“I used to spend so much money on taxis when I did not feel like walking,” said the education consultant. “But now I guess there’s no need any more.”

The air-conditioned service, bus number 595, was launched yesterday by MP for Aljunied GRC, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, who also tried out the 19-seater bus.

The service will operate from Mondays to Saturdays at a flat fare of $1.20.

Covering 31 stops in the neighbourhood, the loop service runs at 20-minute intervals in the morning, afternoon and evening, taking residents to and from the Serangoon MRT station.

The route – which covers condominiums like Nouvelle Park and Palm Grove – was planned by residents in the neighbourhood as well as grassroots leaders from Serangoon constituency.

Last year, they formed a taskforce to look into the transport woes of those living in the area.

“We received a lot of feedback from residents so we sent a proposal to the LTA and managed to get a private company to provide the service,” said Mr John Leow, a 69-year old accountant who chaired the committee.

About 60 per cent of the residents in Serangoon live in private estates, and this is the third such service to be introduced in the constituency.

The other two services take residents in Upper Serangoon Road and Serangoon Gardens to Shenton Way.

If the newest shuttle bus service proves popular, the operator may be asked to ramp up the frequency.

Mrs Lim, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Transport, urged residents to support the service.

“We have to impress upon residents that now that you have an operator who is willing to come forward, we better make sure we have the demand to justify it,” she said.

“I think it is our responsibility to make sure we get in as many commuters as possible.”

– The Sunday Times, page 6, December 13 2009

The route for Premium 595 is as follows:

Serangoon North Avenue 1 > Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 > Yio Chu Kang Road > Poh Huat Road West > Kang Choo Bin Road > Palm Grove Avenue > Highland Road > Yio Chu Kang Link > Serangoon Central (MRT station) > Upper Serangoon Road > Boundary Road and return via the same route.

Besides serving the underserved private estate in Serangoon, the service also partly duplicates SBS Transit’s feeder service 315 in serving Serangoon North Avenue 1.

And as Mrs Lim Hwee Hua aptly puts it across, there is a need for the residents to support the bus service and use it to commute, instead of just complaining about the lack of transport options, but not patronising it once it’s up and running.

Hopefully this service will continue to run permanently with support from heavyweight MPs and vocal residents and not go the way of Cheery’s premium shuttle service 721 which used to link Sin Ming estate with Marymount MRT station for a short while earlier this year.

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

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The Great Trolley Orchard Road free shuttle bus service

FEW PEOPLE ARE AWARE OF BUS LINKING POPULAR MALLS ALONG SHOPPING BELT

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.