First Chinese citybus for Singapore: SMRT’s Yutong ZK6126 August 23, 2009Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Deployment Updates, Fleet News, SMRT, Something New, Transport Events.
Tags: citybus, made in China, service 854, SMB135E, SMRT bus, WAB, wheelchair-accessible bus, Yutong, ZK6126
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: