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New operator brings new bus service into Sin Ming and Upper Thomson May 30, 2009

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The sole Toyota Coaster midibus in service on Premium service 721 by Cheery Bus terminating at Marymount MRT Station.

The sole Toyota Coaster midibus in service on Premium service 721 by Cheery Bus terminating at Marymount MRT Station.

In a surprising move which many would least expect, a new bus service sprang to life the same day the Circle Line MRT commenced revenue service on 28 May 2009.

A new entrant to the public bus market, Cheery Bus launched new premium service 721 running from the new Marymount Station along Marymount Road to Sin Ming Avenue and Upper Thomson Road. Essentially, this new route is a short feeder bus service running in a continuous loop. Which is probably why the choice of service number is not in the usual 5xx range.

The route creates a useful link for the housing estates along Sin Ming Avenue and Upper Thomson, as well as Thomson Plaza, to the new nearest train station for the area. Before this week, it took at least 15 minutes to get to Bishan Station.

Map showing the route of Premium 721 indicated in blue. Service runs in anti-clockwise direction.

Map showing the route of Premium 721 indicated in blue. Service runs in anti-clockwise direction.

Only one midibus is deployed to begin and end service at the bus stop pick-up point outside the new Marymount Station entrance along Marymount Road at a frequency of 30 minutes, except for certain times of the day when the frequency is stretched, most likely for meal breaks and such. The service runs from Mondays to Saturdays from 0620 to 1930 hours only. A flat fare of $1.10 is charged, however, do not expect to find any ez-link card readers onboard the bus. Neither is there any form of transfer rebate even if you had just alighted from the train (a huge disincentive for the regular commuter heavily reliant on the ez-link card!). More details can be found here (the standard of basic English used can definitely be improved!).

As expected, the bus was empty when I took it this afternoon. Though it’s stated on the Cheery Bus website that the service is a one-man operation, there is a “conductor” accompanying the driver throughout. The driver stops  the bus and opens the door at every bus stop along the route in an apparent bid to increase publicity about the new service – only to receive cold stares and puzzled looks by those waiting for other buses. It doesn’t help either that only a piece of paper stating “Marymount MRT” was plastered at the side of the bus. To bolster demand, the company may want to serve  the Sin Ming industrial estate enroute since only one bus service – SBST 130 – serves that area at the moment.

While such a shuttle bus service obviously do not warrant the classification of being a “premium”, it is commendable on the part of private operators to get around the tight restrictions imposed by the Public Transport Council (PTC) to fill in the important gaps left out by giants SBS Transit and SMRT. Whether or not the services survive though, is entirely dependant on demand which has to be generated by sufficient publicity – something the private operators currently lack and need to work hard on.

SMRT partners Veolia in bid to operate Melbourne’s train network April 9, 2009

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SINGAPORE: Singapore transport operator SMRT said it is partnering French company Veolia to put in a bid to operate a train network in the Australian city of Melbourne.

In a filing with the Singapore Exchange on Thursday, the company said its unit, SMRT International, has signed an agreement with Vibrant Partnership.

Vibrant is a consortium that will bid to provide services like rail asset management and infrastructure development for the Melbourne Metropolitan Train Franchise.

SMRT added that the agreement will only take effect if Vibrant is successful in its bid.

Estimated revenue from the project is about S$5.4 million annually.

On Thursday, SMRT asked for a trading halt of its shares on the Singapore Exchange pending an announcement.

SMRT has since resumed trading.

At the mid-day break, SMRT shares rose 0.7 per cent to S$1.54.

By Mok Fei Fei, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 09 April 2009 1622 hrs

Where’s my link to Pioneer MRT station? March 7, 2009

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The whole of Singapore knew about the Boon Lay MRT extension to Pioneer and Joo Koon and everyone, especially residents in the westernmost HDB estates of the country simply could not wait any longer. Not only will they enjoy added convenience, they get to save precious time and reduce transport expenditure.

But when the day came about a week ago, only those staying within the vicinity of Pioneer station had much to cheer about. Those staying to the north of the station, the old-timers of Jurong West Streets 91 and 81, still had to endure with no other alternatives but their same old feeder bus services that will only take them to the congested Boon Lay Interchange/Station.

So what happened?

I am not blaming the bus company there, for I know it has plans of its own. And so far, it has been relatively responsive to major changes in travelling patterns. What bugs me is the very authority who will be taking over the planning of bus routes, or should I say, already in the process of doing so. Surely, what can be so difficult about implementing minor changes to the feeder bus service network in the Jurong West Extension area, especially now that it has been one week since the trains started travelling further west?

This was one early opportunity for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to showcase its role as the better planner of integrated travel, which it could have done by altering the bus routes (such as feeder services 242 and 243) in tandem with the opening of the two new train stations. At most, if it wants to reduce confusion amid all the hype, effect the changes by this weekend.  If major nationwide changes could be carried out during the rationalisation phases in the 1990s, surely this would seem like child’s play for the planners up there?

Some may argue, “got MRT station complain, no MRT station also complain”. But then again, it’s the very authorities who have been very vocal over their own rigid policies of maximising the usage of rail lines, to the extent that bus routes must always be rationalised to divert as many people as possible to the nearest train stations for travel to other parts of town.

So LTA (and PTC and MOT and whatever lotsa other red tape), please practise what you preach and get the crowds to Pioneer MRT station soonest possible.

Scaling down of CityShopper premium bus services October 26, 2008

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No more City Shopper route 576 after Deepavali.

No more City Shopper route 576 after Deepavali.

New premium bus services mushroomed overnight a few months ago when the market for premium bus services was liberalised, with both public and private bus operators wanting to have a share in the pie. Fast forward to today, I can safely say the situation has somewhat calmed down, with some having expanded their services (like SMRT Buses) and others scaling down on the less profitable routes (SBS Transit, Premier Rent-A-Car).

The latest victims this time round are the CityShopper services run by SBS Transit. Originally implemented with eight routes, there will only be three left after Deepavali. Even then, these surviving three will have their operating hours curtailed. The changes to be implemented are:

– CityShopper 576 (Tampines) will be suspended.

– Buses will run only from 1200 to 1630 hours on weekdays.

– Buses will run one-directional from Sengkang/Punggol/Tampines/Simei to Orchard Road/Suntec City from 1000 to 1200 hours on weekends and public holidays.

– Buses will run two-directional as per current route from heartlands to the CBD and back after 1200 hours to 2100 hours on weekends and public holidays.

More information can be found here and SBS Transit’s website.

Personally, I do not see much use for these services to run on weekdays for around four hours during the off-peak period. Extending their operation hours to operate until evening would help boost ridership from office workers-turned-shoppers after work. But for all I know, this might yet be another one of the stifling regulations by the Public Transport Council (PTC) and their excessive fear of duplication with the basic services and trains.

The use of the phrase “suspension of service” for CityShopper 576 instead of “withdrawal of service” or “service will no longer be offered” which was used for the withdrawal of Premium routes 537 and 540 earlier this year, seems to suggest that this particular CityShopper route might end up like Chinatown Direct route CT28 – one that operates only during festive seasons. As such, I won’t be surprised if buses running the 576 during the year-end Christmas season.

While the concept behind the CityShopper premium bus routes is a novel one by SBS Transit, it didn’t turn out to be much of a success. While the fares may be a direct deterrent for potential passengers who are mainly HDB estate dwellers who would rather take the trains which might be slower or even comparably faster but cheaper, much of the problem lies with the routes themselves. It would have done SBS Transit much good if they had ventured into faraway estates like Choa Chu Kang North, Yishun and Woodlands which lack direct bus services to the city, and whose overall fares payable using the current train-feeder bus combination would be comparable, if not more expensive.