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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

Welcome onboard SMRT bus… or is it SBS Transit? June 21, 2009

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One of the many SMRT buses to have received purple and pink vinyl cushion seats. The pink seats are supposedly reserved for those with greater need. Photo courtesy of Varun Naidu.

One of the many SMRT buses to have received purple and pink vinyl cushion seats. The pink seats are supposedly reserved for those with greater need. Photo courtesy of Varun Naidu.

SMRT’s recent refurbishment exercise for its older Hispano-bodied Mercedes Benz 0405 buses, which makes up at least half its bus fleet, may have left some passengers wondering whether their bus service had been taken over by rival SBS Transit.

The green fabric seats which have become synonymous with TIBS SMRT buses, are quickly being replaced with thicker purple and pink-coloured vinyl cushions. Yes, nowhere near the corporate colours of SMRT of red and black. But very close to that of SBS Transit’s purple and orange.

To add to the confusion, some buses which have been refurbished earlier on in the year had their fabric seats replaced with similar vinyl cushions – only green in colour – like those on the Volgren-bodied Mercedes Benz 0405 buses.

So far, all but one bus to have undergone the purple treatment are based at Woodlands Depot, with the odd one out from Ang Mo Kio Depot.

And all this is in addition to the existing black seats on the Hispano Habit and Volgren bendies; green seats on other bendies, some Dennis Lances, DAFs, Scanias and Hinos; as well as black and red seats for their latest wheelchair accessible 0C500LEs.

The interior of our buses may become more colourful and the choice of seat colours may be questionable. But whatever the motive behind these choices may be, the new seats are definitely more comfortable to sit on! (Great for those long journeys that tend to cause back and butt pains!)

SMRT launches its first wheelchair-accessible bus services June 10, 2009

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The first wheelchair-accessible SMRT bus to hit the roads - SMB1H.

The first wheelchair-accessible SMRT bus to hit the roads - SMB1H.

After nearly a year after its first wheelchair-accessible Mercedes Benz bus hit the streets, SMRT Buses has finally officially declared seven of its bus services to be wheelchair-accessible from 1 June 2009.

The services are:
171 – Yishun to Marina Centre
172 – Choa Chu Kang to Boon Lay
189 – Bukit Batok to Kent Ridge
307 – Choa Chu Kang feeder service
811 – Yishun feeder service
851 – Yishun to Bukit Merah
945 – Bukit Batok feeder service

Rectification works to infrastructure were cited for the delay in launching such services (this includes special boarding berths at bus interchanges for the wheelchair-bound). Perhaps the most useful services to be converted in this initial batch is service 851 which serves a substantial number or elderly passengers as well as plenty of medical facilities. And the feeder bus services which can finally enable a wheelchair-bound commuter getting off the wheelchair-accessible train to actually reach home.

More information here.

SMRT seems to have gone a little further than rival SBS Transit in this area. Wheelchair-accessible buses have clear information stickers pasted at prominent locations throughout the bus as well as bus interchanges. But it could still face the problem of arising confusion when a wheelchair-accessible bus is deployed on a non wheelchair-accessible route on a temporary basis, no thanks to the blue wheelchair logo displayed prominently at the front of the bus.

Nonetheless, its announcement of another batch of 66 similar wheelchair-accessible buses to be rolled out by this year is definitely something to look forward to.

End of the road for Premium 586 February 8, 2009

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The only premium bus service run by SMRT not to serve the Central Business District made its final journey yesterday morning.

Premium 586, running from Bukit Panjang Ring Road to Jurong East Interchange for a flat fare of $4.00 every weekday morning, had used SMRT’s new BusPlus Mercedes Benz Sprinter midibuses catering to a lower demand. However, demand was lower than expected and as a result, it would be officially withdrawn February 9, 2009.

China’s Yutong citybus for SMRT Buses? February 1, 2009

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China's Yutong citybus in SMRT livery.

China's Yutong citybus in SMRT livery.

Eyebrows were raised when it was reported initially in bus92.com and then SGForums Buses, that one made-in-China Yutong citybus in SMRT Buses livery was spotted lying idle in its factory complete with ez-link card readers and an interior resembling that of the current Scania K230UBs of SBS Transit.

If this source is indeed accurate, SMRT Buses would be the first in Singapore to operate a China citybus on scheduled revenue bus service.