Bus transport in Singapore

Bus transport in Singapore

Bus transport in Singapore is the most comprehensive and affordable means of public transport for the masses, with over two million rides taken per day on average on the buses of the two main public transport providers SBS Transit and SMRT Corporation. There are more than 300 bus services covering all parts of Singapore.

Plans released in the Public Transport White Paper by the Land Transport Authority, however, predict the gradual decline of extensive public bus transport with the development of a comprehensive rail-based transport system such as the Mass Rapid Transit. It was due to this concern, that the government worked towards establishing multi-modal transport companies so as to allow them to remain relevant in the future.

However, plans are also underway to revitalize the public bus network, and make it an attractive and practical alternative to private transport. It is hoped that this would increase the ridership onboard public transport, as well as reduce congestion. A comprehensive review of Singapore's public transport and bus system, commissioned by the Land Transport Authority, was completed in early 2008. It has resulted in the relegation of bus route planning to the Land Transport Authority by 2009, among other things.


When Singapore first gained independence in 1965, the state of the public transport system was extremely unsatisfactory. Its capacity was inadequate to cope with the population, while the buses were old and slow. Furthermore, the system was beleaguered with frequent problems such as poor management and substandard services and quality.

The main bus operator was the Singapore Traction Company, plying routes in the city area. Apart from that, there were many small and individual Chinese private bus companies, each plying a small part of the rural and fringe areas of the island, with only a few routes each. Therefore a simple journey from the East to the West of the island could involve several bus transfers, and could last a few hours aboard noisy and rickety buses.

As Singapore Traction Company had a 30-year monopoly and had no direct competition, its services were usually substandard, while the small Chinese bus companies also had a shortage of resources and funds. Moreover, many bus companies had labour problems. There were quite a few cases of labour unrest. In the late 1950s, the situation deteriorated. Militant bus workers, manipulated by communist-controlled unions, resorted to strikes in a demand for better work conditions and pay. These work stoppages plagued the entire bus system into chaos.

A famous bus strike was the Hock Lee bus riots on May 12, 1955, where workers from the Hock Lee Amalgamated Bus Company began to go on strike. They were members of the Singapore Bus Workers' Union (SBWU) and were protesting against bad working conditions, long working hours and a low pay. Students from the Chinese Middle schools even came to join and support the strikers. The situation was so bad that in 1955, the Chinese bus companies were hit by a total of 57 strikes. In 1956, the 'Great STC Strike' lasted 146 days. The strikers crippled the country's transport system. The chaotic conditions usually left the commuters in a lurch.

It was in the early seventies that government stepped in to reorganize the bus system. Many small bus companies were amalgamated into three larger bus companies, namely the Amalgamated bus company Ltd, associated bus services Pte Ltd, and the United Bus Ltd. They were grouped into three regional sectors. The STC continued its monopoly on the central area of Singapore.

Notwithstanding the reorganization, bus services still did not improve much. There were still frequent breakdowns, overcrowded buses, and irregular fare and route structures. During this time, the protectionism of the STC by the government was also removed. The STC could not cope with this new environment and closed down its operations due to large financial losses.

In 1973, The three main bus companies were merged into a one single organization. The new company formed from this merger was the Singapore Bus Service (the predecessor of SBS Transit), which came into operation in November 1973. It was hoped that this would create economies of scale and ultimately improve bus services.

The government mooted the idea of a second bus company in the early eighties. The idea was to provide some degree of competition to SBS. Therefore Trans-Island Bus Services Limited was formed on 31 May 1982, as the second major public bus operator. Trans-Island started operations on 3 April 1983.

Mr Ong Teng Cheong, the then Minister for Communications, remarked that "Each company will act as a natural impetus to enhance the performance and efficiency of the other in the spirit of healthy competition and in the process help bring about a better level of service." In August 1994, the government announced the transfer of 17 SBS services to Trans-Island bus services. This was to help TIBS in its early years.

In 2001, Singapore bus service changed its name to SBS Transit Limited. This was to reflect its status as a multi-modal transport operator, as it had won the tender to operate the new North East Line and the Sengkang/Punggol Light Rapid Transit Lines.

In late 2001, Trans-Island became a subsidiary of the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (SMRT). Trans-Island Bus Service was renamed as SMRT Buses Ltd on 10 May 2003. This continues till today.

Public bus companies


Singapore's buses consist of single deck 12 metre long buses used by all operators, double deck and midi Buses used solely by SBS Transit and articulated "bendy" buses used solely by SMRT Buses for the exception of two being used by SBS Transit. The two articulated buses have since been sold to New Zealand in March 2006.

For SBS Transit, the bus chassis and bodywork are bought separately from overseas, usually from 2 different countries and separate companies. They are then assembled locally in Singapore in the ComfortDelGro assembly plant. Recently, SBS Transit, has started designing and producing its own bodywork through ComfortDelGro's other wholly owned subsidiary - ComfortDelGro Engineering. The first locally produced bodywork was fitted onto a Volvo B10TL - SBS 9889U, which is currently on revenue service.

For SMRT buses, its bus chassis and bodywork are also bought from overseas. However, they are assembled overseas instead, and then shipped by air or sea into Singapore. SMRT says this would result in better quality vehicles.

Examples of buses currently used in Singapore are:

;SBS Transit
*Volvo B10M series (MKII, MKIII, MKIV)
*Volvo B10BLE (Low floor, most are CNG-powered)
*Volvo Olympian
*Volvo B10TL (Low floor)
*Volvo B9TL
*Volvo B7RLE (Demonstrator)
*Mercedes-Benz O405
*Scania N113
*Scania L94UB (low floor)
*Dennis Dart
*Dennis Trident 3 (Low floor)
*Leyland Olympian
*Scania K230UB
*MAN 18.240 HOCL-NL (Demonstrator)

;SMRT Buses
*Mercedes-Benz OC500LE
*Mercedes-Benz O405
*Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
*Mercedes-Benz O405G
*Scania L113CRL (some are low floor)
*Dennis Lance 245
*Hino HS3KRK


Singapore has many different bus services plying through the island. These bus routes can be grouped into the following categories:

*Trunk: Routes that ply between towns. These are the basic forms of bus services, found almost throughout the island.
*Short Trip: Routes that operate short haul trips which cater to high demand sectors of an entire trunk route, such as the area near an MRT station.
*Feeder: Services that operate within a neighbourhood, connecting outlying areas to the town centre or bus interchange.
*Intra-Town (SMRT Buses) and TownLink (SBS Transit): Routes that consist of combined feeder services to provide links and improve connectivity between neighbourhoods within the same town, and with the bus interchange and MRT.
*Jurong Industrial Service: Routes that service the Jurong and Tuas industrial areas.
*Express: Routes that stop at several nominated stops and generally run on expressways for faster travel between several towns.
*Fast Forward: A modification of trunk routes, Fast Forward are routes which provide faster travel between places where there is higher demand, by calling at fewer stops.
*NightRider (SMRT Buses) and Nite Owl (SBS Transit): After-hour services on Friday, weekends and eve of public holidays.
*SMRT Link: Free shuttle services to Chinatown, Dhoby Ghaut and Little India.
*Chinatown Direct: Routes that run from suburban towns to Chinatown via the expressways. Such routes are very popular in the period before the Lunar New Year.
*Parks: Services that run from major parks to the nearest bus interchange.
*Stadium Direct: Services that run from the Singapore Indoor Stadium to major towns after major concerts or events being held there.
*Premium: Services that run from major towns to Shenton Way
*CityShopper: Services that run from major towns to and from Orchard Road and Suntec City

Special bus routes that were recently terminated:
*CityBuzz: Citybuzz had 3 special bus services that looped Marina Centre, Orchard Road, Chinatown, and Little India, and were more orientated towards sightseeing and tourists. (No longer in service due to lack of demand.)


# Ilsa Sharp, (2005), SNP:Editions, The Journey - Singapore's Land Transport Story. ISBN 981-248-101-X

External links

* [http://www.sbstransit.com.sg/ SBS Transit Official Site]
* [http://www.smrtbuses.com.sg/ SMRT Buses Official Site]
* [http://www.lta.gov.sg/ Land Transport Authority]
* [http://www.transitlink.com.sg/ TransitLink]
* [http://www.ptc.gov.sg/ Public Transport Council]
* [http://www.sgwiki.com/wiki/Buses Sgwiki, with details on e.g. bus deployments]

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