Tower Transit has commenced bus operations in Singapore today (Sunday, 29 May 2016) as the third public bus operator in Singapore, heralding a new start for the local bus industry. The Anglo-Australian company had taken over its first tranche of 9 bus routes, as well as operations of Bukit Batok Bus Interchange, from the incumbent SMRT Buses.
Staff worked overnight at Bukit Batok Bus Interchange to ensure a smooth transition, with Tower Transit moving into existing SMRT offices at Bukit Batok and the setting up of new fixtures within the bus interchange. At around 5.30am, the first Tower Transit bus (SG1001D) departed from Bukit Batok on Service 945, marking the start of revenue service operations. Tower Transit mentioned that 62 buses were deployed on Sunday, increasing to 94 buses on Monday.
Tower Transit Singapore (TTS) was awarded the Bulim Bus Package, a route package comprising 26 bus routes based out of the new Bulim Bus Depot. This was the inaugural contract awarded by LTA as part of the Government Contracting Model (GCM) in May 2015. The first tranche of 9 bus routes, along with Bukit Batok Bus Interchange operations, were handed over from SMRT Buses to TTS, leaving Service 61 and 852 being the remaining SMRT bus services at the interchange.
29 May 2016 marks a significant milestone as Singapore welcomes its third public bus operator in recent history, a welcome sight to the bus industry which has been dominated by SBS Transit and SMRT Buses (and their predecessors SBS and TIBS) for decades. By breaking up the duopoly, eyes will be on TTS as they strive to deliver high service standards and make an impression on commuters that would likely shape future expectations for more bus operators under the GCM.
As a GCM bus operator, TTS has to deliver service standards determined by the LTA while adhering to its numerous contract terms. As TTS commences revenue service operations for the first time, commuters are advised to bear with service shortcomings during this transition period.
Tower Transit Bus Services
|Service||Destination 1||Destination 2||Type|
|77||Bukit Batok||Marina Centre||Trunk|
|106||Bukit Batok||Shenton Way||Trunk|
|173||Bukit Batok||↺ Clementi||Trunk|
|177||Bukit Batok||↺ Jelebu Rd||Peak Hour|
|189||Bukit Batok||↺ Clementi Ave 1||Trunk|
|941||Bukit Batok||↺ BBT West Ave 8||Feeder|
|945||Bukit Batok||↺ BBT West Ave 4||Feeder|
|947||Bukit Batok||↺ BBT Rd||Feeder|
|990||Bukit Batok||↺ Jur Gateway Rd||Trunk|
Service 177 only operates during the Weekday peak hours and will commence operations on Monday (30 May 2016) instead.
Start of the day
On 29 May 2016 at around 5am, the first Tower Transit buses entered the interchange, in preparation for their first day of operations. Check out the detailed write-up here: SMRT bids farewell to Bukit Batok Bus Interchange.
Tower Transit Buses
Tower Transit’s Day 1 fleet comprises Volvo B9TL double-deck buses, along with Mercedes-Benz Citaro and MAN NL323F A22 single-deck buses.
Brand new Volvo B9TL buses, built to SBS Transit interior specifications, can be seen operating on Service 106 in Lush Green, LTA and TTS Promotional liveries. These buses are registered from SG5000E onwards.
Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses are also brand-new, built to SBS Transit interior specifications. They bear SBS Transit base liveries or TTS Promotional liveries pasted over the existing SBS Transit livery. These buses are registered from SG1001D onwards.
MAN NL323F A22 transferred from SMRT revenue service operations joined the TTS fleet, bearing the existing SMB-prefixed registration plates and SMRT base livery. These buses will progressively be repainted to Lush Green and converted to SG-prefixed registration plates in the future.
It appears that the temporary logo pasted on some MAN A22 buses are meant only for buses with the new SMRT silver livery. Some buses with the old SMRT white red black livery were pasted with the temporary logo, resulting in a (ugly) silver patch on the bus.
The MAN NL323F A22 buses were transferred to TTS in the days before the launch day, as seen in this video. Yet to be seen are Alexander Dennis Enviro500 and MAN ND323F A95 double-deck buses which have joined the TT fleet.
Unique to TTS buses are bright green Loose wheel nut indicators which are used to identify wheel nuts which require tightening. All buses are equipped with the Trapeze Central Fleet Monitoring System (CFMS) which conveys live information to the Bus Operations Control Centre (BOCC) such as vehicle location and headway between front and rear buses, enabling BOCC controllers to better monitor service performance and make adjustments if necessary. Bus announcements compatible with the Trapeze system have been switched off.
Thermal tickets issued upon cash payment feature the Singapore public transport logo in blue, similar to those used on Peak Period Short Services (PPSS).
Tower Transit Staff
Bus captains employed by TTS comprise a mix of existing SBS Transit & SMRT bus captains along with newcomers. They have been employed since late 2015 and have underwent months of training prior to the launch day. TTS staff based in Bukit Batok Interchange assumed their roles, while supervisory staff and Senior management were present to oversee operations.
Bukit Batok Interchange
Bukit Batok Bus Interchange was refurbished beforehand leading up to the transition day. The building was repainted into shades of green, and new brighter interior lighting was installed. New toilets were built and the SMRT shipping container office was moved out. A new, permanent office was built in the middle of the interchange concourse, near the alighting berths.
SMRT had also removed its own equipment from Bukit Batok Bus Interchange, such as its interactive panels and service guide rack. Its LED screens that display bus timings were retained and now showing TTS bus timings, having possibly sold the equipment to TTS or LTA. TTS has installed its own guide rack and its own, full-height information board encloses the existing SMRT information board.
It appears that TTS has continued to engage Cisco security guards at the interchange.
First Day Observations
Due to bus allocation issues, the three feeder bus services were running with only one bus during the first 30 minutes of operations, resulting in long headways of 16-20 minutes.
Bus Deployments on First Day of Service (29 May 2016)
|77||SG1010C SMB3003H SMB3006A SMB3008U SMB3010L SMB3020H SMB3074C|
|106||SG5002A SG5003Y SG5005S SG5006P SG5007L SG5013T SG5014R SG5015M SG5016K SG5017H SG5018E SG5021U SG5032M|
|173||SG1006R SMB3040A SMB3042U SMB3043S SMB3061P SMB3066B SMB3068X|
|177||Commences operations on Monday, 30 May 2016|
|189||SG1036D SMB3005C SMB3019M SMB3032Z SMB3038H SG5031R|
|941||SG1004X SG1008K SMB3037K|
|945||SG1001D SG1002B SG1009H SMB3073E|
|947||SG1007M SMB3024Y SMB3046J|
|990||SG1005T SMB3030D SMB3033X SMB3035R SMB3041Y|
|Buses marked in Green are the very first buses of each service to depart from Bukit Batok Interchange. SG1001D holds the distinction of being the first revenue service Tower Transit bus, departing the interchange at 5:30am.|
Buses also had the running number printed on paper and placed at the front of the bus.
TTS has supplied its own guide rack for Bukit Batok Interchange along with service guides. PDF versions of the guides can be downloaded here.
These guides, a fraction of conventional-size brochures, were stuffed into drop-down guide racks and were difficult to remove. Of note is a Daily Hotline for Enquiries/Feedback (7:30am – 8pm) and 24 a Hours Lost-&-Found Hotline printed on the guide, and it is believed that the provision of such a hotline was a contractual obligation for TTS.
As of Day 1, there have been no changes to printed bus stop information at individual bus stops, which still reflect SMRT as the service provider. We expect these to be updated in the coming days or weeks. Bus stop poles, where the colored background of individual service numbers reflects the bus operator (beige for SMRT services) have not been changed and remains to be seen if any changes will be made to them.
Other service hiccups
- Irregular headways of buses departing from Bukit Batok Interchange was also observed, ranging between 4 to 21min
- SMB3068X was pulled out of 173, likely due to issues with the NOBE
- An instance of Prolonged headway of over 30minutes was observed for Service 106 in the evening
- Emergency deployment of SG1035G on Service 106 to make up for long headway
- BOCC: Bus Operations Control Centre, self-explanatory
- BCM: Bus Contracting Model. Refer to GCM.
- GCM: Government Contracting Model, also called BCM. LTA-led bus industry restructuring programme shifting to a competitive tendering process to improve bus service standards
- LTA: Land Transport Authority, statutory board overseeing all public bus operations in Singapore
- NOBE: New On-board Bus Equipment (NOBE), automated fare collection equipment standardized across all Singapore public buses (Turquoise-colored driver panel and card readers)
- SBS: Singapore Bus Service (1973 – 2001), predecessor of SBS Transit
- TIBS: Trans-Island Bus Services (1982 – 2004), predecessor of SMRT Buses
- TTS: Tower Transit Singapore (2015 –), new bus operator