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SMRT launches second bus service duplicating MRT line November 5, 2010

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TIB469P on Express service 868 along Fullerton Road.

TIB469P on SMRT Express service 868 along Fullerton Road. Photo courtesy of Muhd Faizal.

Following SBS Transit’s service 128 (Yio Chu Kang to Shenton Way), SMRT introduced the second MRT-duplicating bus service in the form of Express service 868. Similar to most Premium bus services, Express 868 runs only in a one-directional route from Bukit Gombak to Suntec City on weekday mornings.

There are currently two trips, with buses departing the bus stop outside Blk 347 along Bukit Batok West Avenue 5 at 7:30 and 7:45 AM, bypassing the Bukit Batok Polyclinic and Toh Guan Road enroute before hitting the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) to get to Robinson Road one hour later.

Loads from Bukit Batok during the first month of operation have been light, with majority of the passengers boarding from Toh Guan estate instead. With Express 868, residents of Toh Guan now have two options to get to the CBD, with SBS Transit’s Premium 543 being the other. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them have migrated over from 543 to 868, given that both head to the same destination but with 868 charging a significantly cheaper Express fare!

Buses for Express 868 come under the purview of SMRT’s Kranji Depot.

Introductory poster and press release

Next stop: 3 more SMRT Xchanges November 1, 2009

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Commuters will get more than connectivity when the train pulls in at the Esplanade MRT station.

Scheduled to open next year as part of the Circle Line Stage 1, the station will boast a shopping area called Esplanade Xchange.

There are similar shopping areas at Raffles Place and Dhoby Ghaut stations, with the most recent opened at Choa Chu Kang in January last year.

The Esplanade station will house about 40 shops spread across 2,000 sq m – or slightly less than half a football field – of retail space.

SMRT said it aims to have a good mix of retail and food and beverage shops.

The station, with a floor area of 19,000 sq m, is the largest of all the Circle Line stations.

It will have four entrances: at Suntec City; One Raffles Link; the War Memorial Park; and the former Singapore Armed Forces Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

There will also be three underpasses, linking commuters to Raffles City, Marina Square and One Raffles Link.

SMRT is marketing the retail space and will call for tenders later this year.

But Singapore Polytechnic retail management lecturer Sarah Lim said retailers will find it “quite challenging” to draw the crowds unless they can “provide something completely different” like unique food or retail offerings.

They may also need to position themselves as a niche shopping area like the Heeren, which caters to the younger shoppers.

“Their main competition will be the Orchard Road area where the buzz is very strong with new mall offerings and a number of buildings being upgraded,” she added.

While noting that there will be constant human traffic in the area, she pointed out that Raffles City and Suntec City are already established malls.

Without proper “positioning and branding”, the Esplanade Xchange could just become a thoroughfare for people heading to shops in these other malls.

SMRT said there are plans for 700 sq m of shops at some of the 10 other Circle Line stations opening next year, including the Bras Basah, Promenade, Nicoll Highway, Stadium and Paya Lebar stations.

Since Ms Saw Phaik Hwa became SMRT’s chief executive in 2002, she has pushed hard to make good use of its space in stations for retail purposes.

For its first quarter ended June 30, SMRT’s operating profit for retail space grew by 12.9 per cent to $12.5 million.

The Straits Times, Home, page B2, Thursday October 1 2009

SMRT Xchanges at Orchard and Esplanade stations.

An artist's impression of the new Orchard Xchange and Esplanade Xchange along the North-South and Circle Lines respectively.

And Esplanade Xchange will not be the only new Xchange along Singapore’s premier shopping belt. Orchard MRT station – which has long been suffering under the construction work for the new ION Orchard shopping mall – will soon be home to a new Orchard Xchange, though slightly smaller at 1,600 sq m.

Jurong East Xchange

The future Jurong East Xchange shopping mall at the Jurong East MRT interchange station.

The lack of commercial spaces in Jurong East Central (the nearest established mall now is IMM which is quite a distance away) will be addressed with the MRT station’s refurbishment into Jurong East Xchange. Taking into account the current open space in front of Popular Bookstore, it is not surprising that the whole area can be converted into a more productive 2,500 sq m worth of retail space.

SMRT has also just opened up its retail spaces in Esplanade Xchange for tender. And they have apparently learnt their lessons well from the Dhoxy Xchange experience. At least half the space available in Esplanade Xchange has been set aside for food and beverage, with six bigger units offering alfresco seating areas. The others will be for smaller take-away food stalls. It goes without saying that food stalls tend to fare better than retail, especially when the mall takes up the less busy areas of the MRT station as in the case for Dhoby Xchange.

Dhoby Xchange

Traffic has started to increase steadily at Dhoby Xchange, which made it to the news for resembling a ghost town populated by angry loss-making shop owners.

However, it is highly unlikely that Esplanade Xchange will flop the way of Dhoby XChange. Given that it is blessed to be connected with so many busy buildings nearby, it should in fact be just as successful as Raffles Xchange with its constant flow of shoppers. Never mind that many would probably be just using the station as a bypass to their intended destinations.

And if you dig deeper into the company, you would have found out that there are already plans for even more commercial spaces to be developed in existing stations, including Woodlands. But whether or not another Xchange will emerge remains to be seen.

What matters most from all this though, is that both parties stand to gain. SMRT’s rental earnings would definitely continue to skyrocket, while the typical commuter now has more retail options even while on the move.

Even rival SBS Transit has not stood still. It has actively refurbished its larger bus interchanges such as Jurong East and Eunos to include new retail spaces. There is even a McDonald’s dessert kiosk at Hougang Central interchange. But its ability to develop retail spaces is limited, as the company does not operate any above-ground train stations with bigger spaces to experiment with. Almost all the remaining available spaces in its Northeast Line MRT stations have also been crafted out into shop units.

Even smaller bus interchanges have not escaped this ‘commercialisation of space’. Pushcarts and event space are always taken up by smaller retailers and entrepreneurs on short-term leases, squeezing into any possible space that is not obstructing commuter flow. While having the fruit seller at the bus interchange gives commuters the convenience of buying some last minute takeaways, it is an entirely different story if one is constantly approached by overzealous insurance company agents out to grab every single potential customer.

That is when you would really feel like grabbing a fruit and throwing it at the one approaching you with his wide smile.

Travel Malaysia Fair 2009 October 17, 2009

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What: Travel Malaysia Fair 2009 (includes display of 8 express bus coaches) – admission is free!

When: 16 to 18 October 2009, Friday to Sunday; 1000 to 2130 hours

Where: Suntec Singapore Convention Centre Hall 404

How: By train: Alight at City Hall station and walk through CityLink Mall or take the free shuttle bus from the bus stop at Coleman Street. By bus: 10, 10e, 14, 16, 36, 70, 70M, 97, 106, 107M, 111, 133, 162M, 196, 196e, 502, 518, 531, 541, 546, 547, 597, 700A, 857, NR1

Express Bus Agencies Association (EBAA) is pleased to present once again our annual edition of Travel Malaysia 2009 travel fair to be held on 16th – 18th October 2009 at Hall 404, Suntec Convention Centre. The three days event will be the largest and most comprehensive tourism exhibition on Malaysia as a favourite destination for the year end holidays. The three days event is expected to draw a crowd turnout of about 30,000.

In cooperation with Tourism Malaysia, the main highlights of the event are the State Pavilions where the various states of Malaysia flaunt a unique mélange of attractions and holiday destinations as well as a multitude of special products. The fair will also showcase and display the state of the art and most up to date exclusive express bus and coaches by EBAA member companies.

Travel Malaysia 2009 is supported by Malaysia Tourism Promotional Board (MTPB) as the Title Sponsor and is co-sponsored by AIG, Genting International, Awana Resort, OCBC Bank and Star Cruises. Travel Malaysia 2009 includes key exhibitors from the tour and travel industries, hotel and resort, theme park, golf and recreation resorts, service provider of transport, travel agents, eco tourism, property investment, health tourism, shopping, entertainment, adventure holidays and NTOs from Malaysia.

A total of 85 exhibitors occupying a floor area of 4,000 sqm comprising 133 booths and display of 8 premium express buses will be put up for the event. Of these 133 booths, 60 booths were allocated to Tourism Malaysia HQ for their exhibitors by the respective state tourism boards.

Extracted from Suntec Singapore’s calendar of events and http://www.ebaa.sg/.

Members of the EBAA include Transtar Travel, Five Stars Tours, Lapan Lapan Travel, Sri Maju Tours & Travel, Regent Star Travel, Konsortium Express & Tours, Luxury Tours & Travel, WTS Travel & Tours and Hasry Singapore. Something that might be interesting to note – both SMRT Bus Plus and ComfortDelGro Bus are associate members of this grouping as well.

Additional trip for SMRT Premium 531 October 4, 2009

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Yet another additional trip for Premium 531 in the mornings from 5 October 2009.

Yet another additional trip for Premium 531 in the mornings from 5 October 2009.

Singapore’s most successful premium bus service to date – SMRT’s route 531 – is set to gain yet another trip during the weekday morning peak period. Six buses will now start their trips from Simei Road between 0745 and 0810 hours at a frequency of 4 to 8 minutes, ferrying commuters to their offices in Suntec City and Shenton Way.

While demand has certainly been good (and maybe even increasing) in the mornings, the two return trips in the evenings will see no change. Then again, Premium 531 is still one of only a handful of premium bus services here to even have evening return journeys.

Click here for the press release.

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

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Miscellaneous, Route Amendment, SBS Transit, SMRT, Transport Events.
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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.

SBST iris NextBus during F1 race road closures September 9, 2009

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Good news for both  car owners and public transport commuters. This year, there will less road closures in the vicinity of Suntec City/Marina Bay during the much anticipated Formula 1 night race later this month, though it is expected that bus services into Suntec City would most likely be diverted away from the area as per last year.

While the diversion and closure plans have yet to be released, bus operator SBS Transit has already announced the temporary suspension of its real-time bus arrival information facility during the F1 period.

The press release as follows:

Due to the F1 race road closures, 27 basic bus services – 10, 10e, 14, 14e, 16, 36, 56, 57, 70, 70M, 97, 97e, 100, 107, 107M, 111, 128, 130, 131, 133, 162, 162M, 195, 196, 196e, 502, 518 – as well as Nite Owl and Premium Services – will be affected. iris NextBus will not be available for these affected services from 23 to 28 September 2009.

iris NextBus users who send SMSes for any of the affected services during this period will receive an SMS to inform them that there is no bus arrival information. The incoming SMS will not be charged.