Express Bus Services

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Express Bus Services are bus services that incorporate long express sectors in their routes. Although some trunk routes also contain long express sectors, express bus services fall under a different classification.

Express services reduce travel time by travelling via the expressways or skipping bus stops along selected stretches of road. They charge higher fares due to the decreased catchment area and hence decreased total passenger loading compared to a non-express route However, many passengers are willing to pay the higher fare for added convenience and reduced travel time.

Previously, Express routes were limited to the 50_ and 51_ numbering series, but newer Express routes do not follow this convention. Often, a letter E will be added as a suffix, though this suffix is not exclusive to Express routes. SBS Transit uses a stylized Express label on their destos and front electronic display, but SMRT Express services are formatted similar to other non-Express routes.

Bus Service Description
Express 188E Choa Chu Kang Int → HarbourFront Int
Weekdays AM Peak only
Express 502 Soon Lee Bus Park ↺ Orchard/Suntec/Marina Bay
Daily operation
Express 506 Jurong East Int ↔ Upper East Coast Ter
Daily operation
Express 513 Tampines Ave 5 ⇆ Shenton Way/Anson Rd
Weekdays AM/PM Peak only. Introduced under BSEP.
Express 518 Pasir Ris Int ↺ Novena/Orchard/Suntec/Marina Bay
Daily operation
Express 850E Yishun Ave 11 ⇆ Shenton Way/Anson Rd
Weekdays AM/PM Peak only. Introduced under BSEP.
Express 854E Yishun Int → Bedok Int
Weekdays AM Peak only
Express 868 Bukit Batok West Ave 5 → Temasek Ave
Weekdays AM Peak only
Express 951E Woodlands St. 82 ⇆ Shenton Way/Anson Rd
Weekdays AM/PM Peak only. Introduced under BSEP.
Express 963E Woodlands Int ⇆ HarbourFront Int
Weekdays AM/PM Peak only
Express 971E Bukit Panjang Temp Ter ⇆ Shenton Way/Anson Rd
Weekdays AM/PM Peak only
Express 982E Choa Chu Kang Ave 5 ⇆ Shenton Way/Anson Rd
Weekdays AM/PM Peak only. Introduced under BSEP.

Services 188R and 963R are classified as Resorts World Sentosa services.

Fares:

Fares for Express services follow the current distance-based fare scheme (DBF) for Express routes.

Operating Hours:

Only Express services 502, 506 and 518 operate daily. The remaining Express services operate only during peak hours on Weekdays.

Advantages:

The point-to-point nature of express routes provide convenience and encourage commuters to rely on them rather than taking a train, reducing commuters’ reliance on the rail network. For bus operators, the decreased run-time of Express routes translate to fewer buses  being deployed compared to an ordinary route over the same distance. By carrying passengers over longer distances at a time, this reduces the strain of boarding and alighting activities at enroute stop, which take up a lot of time especially during peak hours.

Disadvantages:

Since there are no official guidelines for a service to be classified as an “Express” service, the definition is sometimes misused by bus companies. Similar to some Fast-Forward routes, certain Express services such as 854E duplicate their parent routes to a large extent but charge higher fares under the Express designation. Sometimes, commuters are forced to take Express services within their non-Express sectors as existing bus routes do not provide direct connections to their destination. For example, Express 506 offers the fastest route between Bedok Reservoir and Upper East Coast without transfers, but alternative routes would require multiple transfers between other bus services.

The “definition” of Express?

Among private transport operators, a service is deemed “Express” when it charges Express fares based on the distance-based Express fare structure. This definition does not extend to trunk routes which incorporate long express sectors along expressways (and are sometimes more “express” that other Express services). Many services plying the Tampines Expressway and Bukit Timah Expressway / Pan-Island Expressway corridors are trunk routes rather than designated Express routes.

A Brief History:

Many express services existed in the 1990s that fell under the 5xx numbering series. As the earliest generation of express services, they complimented the MRT network by providing journeys with comparable/faster journey time by using expressways, many of which serve between the City and housing districts. Here is a list:

Bus Services Description
Express 501 Introduced in 1997 as a peak hour unidirectional service between Hougang Central and Penang Road (AM) / Anson Rd (PM), later extended to Sengkang Int. Withdrawn in 2003 under NEL Rationalization – Phase 2.
Express 502 Introduced in 1997 between Hougang Central and Jurong East, later extended to Sengkang Int. Shortened to loop at Marina Center from Boon Lay under NEL Rationalization – Phase 2, and extended to serve the Bayfront area in 2010.
Express 503 Introduced in 1997 as a peak hour unidirectional service between Tampines and Temasek Ave (AM) / Anson Rd (PM). Amended and renumbered as 505.
Express 505 Introduced in 1999, renumbered from 503. Loop service between Pasir Ris / Tampines and Bukit Merah / Telok Blangah, amended and renumbered 518.
Express 506 Introduced in 1998 between Jurong East and Bedok. Extended to Changi Airport in 2000 and shortened back to Bedok in 2002. Extended to Upper East Coast in 2006.
Express 507 Introduced in 1998 as a peak hour unidirectional service between Boon Lay and Shenton Way (AM) / Anson Rd (PM). Withdrawn in 2004.
Express 508 Peak hour unidirectional service between Sengkang and Penang Rd (AM) / Outram Rd (PM). Shortened to Hougang Central in 2000 with the extension of Express 501 and re-numbered Express 511.
Express 511 Peak hour unidirectional service between Hougang Central and Penang Rd (AM) / Outram Rd (PM), re-numbered from Express 508. Withdrawn in 2003 under NEL Rationalization – Phase 2.
Express 512 Introduced when 502 was extended in 2000. Peak hour unidirectional service between Hougang Central and Outram Rd (AM) / Moulmein Road (PM). Withdrawn in 2003 under NEL Rationalization – Phase 2.
Express 518 Introduced after the re-numbering of Express 505, loop service between Pasir Ris and Orchard / Marina Center. Extended to serve more of Pasir Ris in 2005 and extended to serve the Bayfront area in 2010.
Express 520 Peak hour unidirectional service between Yishun and Outram Rd (AM) / New Bridge Rd Ter (PM). Withdrawn in 2003
Express 521 Introduced in 1999 between Bukit Panjang and World Trade Center (now HarbourFront). Extended to Woodlands in 2002 and converted to trunk Service 963.

Only Express services 502, 506 and 518 survive until today. Many were withdrawn as part of MRT Rationalization exercises (due to MRT duplication) or merged with existing routes by the early 2000s.

Express routes would re-surface years later when SBS Transit and SMRT Buses introduced express parallel services which duplicated existing trunk bus routes. These express services would operate during the peak hours, calling at stops of higher demand and skipping sections of route for faster point-to-point travel. While SBS Transit promoted them as Fast-Forward routes, SMRT referred to them as ordinary Express services, such as 188E, 854E and 963E.

Finally, the newer generation of Express routes are newly designed routes intended to connect housing estates to the Central Business District (CBD), operating during the peak hour, such as 868, 971E and several more under the BSEP scheme such as 513, 850E, 951E and 982E. City Direct routes are an extension of this concept, contracting such express routes to private bus operators.

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References:

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