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Free shuttle buses to Changi Airport from Sengkang and Ang Mo Kio October 5, 2010

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In a bid to attract more weekend shoppers to the airport, Changi Airport is running free shuttle buses to Sengkang and Ang Mo Kio MRT stations on weekends and public holidays. Buses will come every hour between 11.30am and 10pm. For now, the shuttles have been scheduled to run until 27 March next year. The buses used are by Woodlands Transport, the company currently running the free Budget Terminal shuttle bus to Terminal 2.

For more information on pick-up points and timings, please refer to Changi Airport’s website.

Both Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) & Marina Bay Sands (MBS) IRs cease shuttle services September 11, 2010

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Buses to heartland and downtown areas stopped abruptly after directive by CRA

By Andrea Ong, Chong Zi Liang & Grace Chua

The two Integrated Resorts (IRs) ceased their shuttle bus services to both downtown and heartland areas yesterday.

At Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), the bus services ran as usual yesterday morning but stopped abruptly in the early afternoon, after the resort received a directive from the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA).

In it, the authority directed both IRs to “cease all their shuttle bus services with immediate effect”, apart from certain destinations spelt out in the law regulating casino advertising such as the airport and hotels.

Before the directive from the authority, RWS has said on Thursday that it was stopping the eight free shuttle bus routes which pass through heartland locations from 11pm tomorrow but would continue its services to Orchard Road and within the central business district.

That decision came after the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) said it was investigating the free shuttle bus services. There have been concerns that the shuttle services were making it too convenient for heartlanders to go to the IR to gamble.

RWS said yesterday’s sudden cancellation could affect up to 4,000 people a day – the expected passenger load over the long Hari Raya weekend.

RWS’ vice-president of resort operations Noel Hawkes said the resort had been working with government agencies to ease congestion at the junction of Telok Blangah Road and Sentosa Gateway by providing bus services.

When RWS put together its transportation master plan, “that has always been one of our plans to have a heartland shuttle service, so that we would bring people here by public transport and avoid people having to take cars and jam up the junction”, he said.

Both IRs had to obtain approval from the Land Transport Authority for their bus routes.

Mr Hawkes also pointed out that the shuttle services were meant for visitors to the resort and not just for gamblers.

“The resort ia a huge place, the casino accupies 5 per cent of the total gross floor area,” he said.

The buses transported about 2,500 people to the IR each day and helped provide the critical mass od people for the resort to be a “vibrant, happening place 24/7”, he added.

Over at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), the only bus service that remained in operation yesterday was the airport shuttle. The airport and certain places frequented mainly by tourists are exempt from the CRA directive. Even before the directive, MBS had suspended at midnight on Thursday its paid bus routes serving Orchard Road and Outram, and its free shuttles to certain hotels. It did so “in cooperation” with MCYS, its spokesman said.

MBS “has never offered any free shuttle bsues to housing estates in the heartland” and its buses serve international tourists, its spokesman said.

Bus operators at a loss after sudden decision

Back on Sentosa, two of the five bus operators contracted by RWS yesterday expressed shock at the sudden cessation of services. They explained that as bus routes took months to plan, they would find it difficult to redeploy their drivers and buses.

Mr Sebastian Yap, executive director of Transtar Travel, said “This is very unfair to us. It’s too harsh to have a sudden change. I’m at a loss about what to do with my fleet now.” His company invested about $2 million in the RWS shuttle operation, purchasing 13 new buses and hiring 36 Singaporean drivers.

Mr Yap said he would try to redeploy as many of the drivers as possible, but some would probably be let go.

Mr Neo Tiam Beng of Transit Network Consortium hired 25 new drivers, both foreign and local, to ply the routes. His company bought nine buses for the IR operation at $200,000 each.  He said: “This is an IR, not just a casino. If we were ferrying people just to gamble, then as a Singaporean I will stop my service. But people are taking the bus with children, so how can they be gambling?”

He added that all 25 drivers he hired would probably be retrenched.

At the RWS bus depot, where the free shuttles usually dock to pick up and drop off passengers, posters announcing a “cessation of shuttle bus services” covered the giant notice boards that had previously displayed the schedules of the now-defunct bus routes.

Signs for queueing bays for the various heartland destinations were removed.

A few confused commuters, such as 56-year-old Tan Ah Leng,were spotted wandering in the depot. He and a friend had taken the shuttle from Ang Mo Kio at noon to the IR to shop.

“They should at least have stopped the buses tomorrow so that we can still take it back. How should I go back now?” the technician asked.

Madam Serene Tan, 52, took the shuttle with her husband and daughter, to look around the IR.

“How about the old folk? They will find it hard to get home now,” she said.

RWS said it will deploy about 100 staff around Singapore to let people know that the free bus services have stopped.

The above article was published in The Straits Times on Saturday 11 September 2010 pages A1 & A6.

Ministry probes free bus rides to RWS and MBS casinos September 9, 2010

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MPs raise concerns about Sentosa IR’s heartland shuttle

By Elgin Toh, Andrea Ong & Chong Zi Liang

The Government is investigating the free bus rides offered by the two integrated resorts (IRs) here.

The probe could have an impact especially on Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), which introduced free shuttle services between the resort and 12 HDB town centres a few months ago.

The investigation, announced yesterday by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), is to establish that Singaporeans are not being encouraged to go to the IRs’ casinos.

It comes amid protests from MPs like Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who told The Straits Times earlier that the free rides encourage Singaporeans in the heartlands to gamble at the casinos. He will raise the issue in Parliament.

When contacted about Mr Liang’s concerns, the ministry said in an e-mail reply: “We are investigating the provision of free transport by the IR operators.

“The IR operators will not be allowed to target the local market or provide incentives in any form for Singaporeans to patronise the casinos.”

Its move is in line with legislation introduced in 2006 to regulate casinos. The law, among other things, forbids casino advertisements in the mass media.

The National Council on Problem Gambling also views the free shuttle services with “great concern”. Its statement said it “disapproves of any marketing and promotion effort targeting Singaporeans and permanent residents to visit the casinos.

“We will work slosely with MCYS to address any possible social impact arising from casino gambling.”

Both IRs offer free shuttle services. The Marina Bay Sands goes between the resort and Changi Airport, as well as hotels in the Marina Bay area. The RWS buses are available at two spots in the Central Business District – International Plaza and Lau Pa Sat – as well as 12 HDB town centres, including Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East, Tampines and Bedok.

Most of its bus services run from 10am to 10pm on weekdays. On weekends, the last bus leaves for RWS at 2.20am.

Yesterday, The Straits Times went on 17 trips between 10am and 9pm, taking buses between RWS and HDB town centres in Choa Chu Kang, Tiong Bahru, Bedok and Bukit Merah. Most buses were 50-seaters.

On the day trips, one in seven commuters walked straight into the casino upon getting off the bus. At night, after the Universal Studios theme park closed at 7pm, two out of five headed for the casino, which Singaporeans have to pay $100 to enter.

Most of the 30 commuters interviewed said they came to know of the free shuttle after receiving RWS mailers in their letter boxes.

Among them was a 60-year-old retiree who took the 10am bus from Choa Chu Kang. He was bringing his family of six, including two grandchildren, to the Universal Studios theme park.

“We’re going because it’s my grandson’s birthday. I’ve never been inside the casino. The $100 fee is too expensive,” he said.

Teenagers and families with children formed the majority on the buses during the day, and were usually headed for Universal Studios or the food outlets. On the night services, the buses were half-full, mainly with workers.

Clerk Jeanette Chan, 45, who visits the RWS casino six times a month, said: “The buses make it really convenient as it stops at the indoor bus bay not far from the casino.”

Previously, she had to cross a road to get public transport home. “And when it rained, I got wet,” she added.

RWS, however, said a survey it did of 2,500 users of its free shuttle shows more than 60 per cent did not go to the casino. It also said that “we do not provide special casino incentives to Singaporeans.”

Six MPs interviewed whose wards are served by the free shuttle say the concerns over gambling ae valid. However, they feel people should keep an open mind as the free bus services benefit those who want to visit the other attractions on Sentosa.

Said Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tanjong Pagar GRC): “I don’t think it’s a big deal… if people want to go, they can easily make their way to the casinos.”

Like some of the other MPs interviewed, Mr Baey said none of his constituents had approached him about problem gamblers in their families.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Community Development, Youth and Sports, said the shuttle to Sentosa should stop at 7pm when Universal Studios closes.

He added: “If the aim of RWS is to draw more to patronise the casino, then that is wrong.”


No Casino Incentives
“We started our free bus shuttle service following feedback and the age-old perception that Sentosa was too far and inaccessible… As a Singapore-listed company here for the long term, Resorts World does not, and will not, promote irresponsible gambling among Singaporeans. We do not provide special casino incentives for Singaporeans.”
– A Resorts World Sentosa spokesman

Keep Out Of Heartland
“I was very disturbed when I heard about the RWS free shuttles running from HDB town centres. With such convenience, more people in the heartland will be encouraged to gamble at the casino. I hope RWS does the right thing socially – they should voluntarily stop these services. They can run them from hotels or from Orchard Road. But I don’t think they should run it into an HDB town.”
– Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa

Gamblers Will Find A Way
“If buses run through the heartland, people who are weak in their determination might be tempted to take the free bus to the casino. But we have to look at the issue from both sides. Those who really want to go to gamble will make their way there regardless of whether theres is a free bus service.”
– Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Sam Tan

What Casino? It’s A Free Ride
“I’m not going to the casino. Actually, I’m not even going to Sentosa. I’m planning to spend the say in Tampines Mall. So I’m taking the free bus from home in Choa Chu Kang to Sentosa. I’ll then hop on to the next bus from Sentosa to Tampines. It’s my way of beating the rising bus fares.”
– A 48-year-old unemployed Choa Chu Kang resident who declined to be named

Have Free Bus, Will Visit
“I might come more frequently now because of the free bus service. I’ve been to the casino at Marina Bay Sands too, but I prefer RWS… For MBS, I still have to change trains and walk a long distance from City Hall MRT. It takes a long time and it’s inconvenient for me to go home. This bus takes me very near my house.”
– Factory worker Tan Chin Hock, 68, who took the bus from Choa Chu Kang at 1pm. He left at 9pm and said he won $2,000.

The above article was published in The Straits Times on Thursday 9 September 2010 pages A1 & A6.

Personally, I feel that these concerns over the free buses leading to a rise in problem gamblers are totally invalid. As MP Baey rightly pointed out, determined gamblers can easily make their way to the casino. The buses would just be facilitating his travel. The ST survey as well as RWS’ own survey shows that the majority of the bus commuters are not utilising the shuttle to get to the casino. Do we then penalise the majority?

What irked me most though is the short-sightedness displayed by the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Community Development, Youth and Sports Mr Seah Kian Peng in suggesting the shuttle stops operating at 7pm once the theme park closes for the day. Perhaps he should do a little more research and learn that the theme park technically remains open till late to allow those who want to dine at its restaurants to do so –  minus the heat of the day.

The government cannot expect to have the best of both worlds. They chose to site a casino on the same premises as the theme park, each with their own totally different target groups of visitors. Isn’t that in itself a subtle way of enticing the unintended groups to gamble their lives away? For the benefit of everyone, keep the free shuttle bsues.

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

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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.

Singapore F1 Night Race: Road Access & Public Transport Guide September 14, 2009

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Essential information on F1 road closures and public transport changes from 23rd to 29th September:

Land Transport Authority Press Release
Road Access & Public Transport Guide
SBS Transit train and bus services during F1 NEW!
SBS Transit bus service updates during F1
SMRT train, bus and taxi services during F1 NEW!
SMRT train service extension schedule during F1 NEW!


With less than two weeks left to the much anticipated Formula 1 night race at Singapore’s Marina Bay, much preparations for the event have been carried out, including joint press releases for bus service diversions by both SBS Transit and SMRT – one of the few instances where collaboration between the two is much appreciated.

As per last year, there will be similar road closures around the area. Buses will be diverted to ply the fringes of Suntec City; the nearest alternative convenient stops being those around North Bridge Road and Raffles City. There will also be special free bridging shuttle bus services connecting the Suntec City and Marina Square shopping centres to the nearest MRT stations at Bugis and City Hall, though you would be better off walking through the CityLink Mall.

And as always, SBS Transit will run special feeder bus services in selected housing estates to complement the last train timings.

Quoted from the LTA press release:

Public Transport

Q1. What are the public transport options available during the road closure period?
The public transport system will continue to operate during the period of the road closure. The capacity of the MRT will be able to cope with the increase in numbers turning to the trains as a mode of transport during the period of the closure, although during peak periods some passengers may not be able to board the first train that arrives. LTA and the MRT Operators will monitor the train passenger loadings closely and make adjustments where possible.

Basic bus services serving the Marina Bay area will be diverted to ply the fringes of road closures. For the convenience of public assessing Marina Bay area, a free bridging bus service will be provided to connect City Hall and Bugis MRT stations to the area from 23 to 29 September 2009.

Q2. Which public bus services will be affected? What are their diverted routes?
A total of 27 basic bus services will be affected by the road closures. These bus services will be diverted either to parallel routes or to the fringe of the road closures, such as the bus stops closest to the Suntec City / Marina Centre area that will continue to be accessible during the road closure. For commuters going to the Suntec City / Marina Centre area, the average walking distance is about 600-800 metres, and less than 400 metres via the free bridging shuttle bus service.

Q3. Will there be an increase in frequency of the MRT services to and from City Hall and Raffles Place MRT stations? Is this a safe frequency to operate at?
We expect that there will be sufficient capacity to handle any increase in ridership from the road closures. However, as the NSEWL is already running at maximum capacity during the weekday peak-within-peak period of about half an hour in the mornings and evenings, commuters may experience some difficulty in boarding the first train to arrive at their station during the peak-within-peak periods. They should be able to board the next train, after a 2 to 3-minute wait.

For the other times of the weekdays as well as during the race weekend, LTA is working with the PTOs to run more train trips where possible to increase passenger capacity of our train network. LTA and the MRT Operators will also monitor the train passenger loadings closely and make adjustments where possible.

Our train systems are designed to operate safely at the planned frequencies.  

Bridging service

Q4 What frequency will the bridging bus run at? Is this enough to cope with the expected increase in commuter traffic?
The bridging service was planned to be operated at a frequency of 10 to 12 minutes if traffic enroute permits. As it would be faster on foot for most destinations in Marina Bay area, the bridging service will offer an alternative for the public, especially the elderly and those travelling with young children.

Free SMRT Chinatown Shuttle Service by SMRT January 27, 2009

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Photo courtesy of Md Faizal.

Photo courtesy of Md Faizal.

Photo courtesy of Jack AY

Photo courtesy of Jack AY

In what has become a yearly tradition, SMRT ran their free Chinatown shuttle bus service spanning the three days before Chinese New Year. The route remains the same – running in a circular manner between their own Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place stations and South Bridge Road in Chinatown.

As to why SMRT is so generous to be providing something that is potentially (or rather, proven to be) loss-making, the answer is simply competition from SBS Transit’s Northeast train line (NEL) which serves the heart of Chinatown. If a passenger travelling on the East-West or North-South train lines transfers to the NEL to get to Chinatown, SBST gets a cut of the passenger’s total fare, eating into what could have been a few more cents for SMRT. So, just like the rationale behind the free SMRT Link shuttle services, this free Chinatown shuttle aims to minimise the potential fare revenue losses by attracting commuters away from the NEL.

But of course, who would bother sacrificing a 15-minute wait for the free shuttle, when there is a train service right smack in the destination they are heading towards.

Nonetheless, the free shuttles do make for very interesting in-house advertisements and special deployments. This year, two buses – TIB762S of Woodlands Depot route 922 and TIB968R of Kranji Depot route 970 – were deployed to run the free shuttle, bucking the trend of having BusPlus midibuses and Dennis Lance charter buses on the service as in previous years.