Bus industry completes transition to Bus Contracting Model

Transitioning to BCM for SBS Transit & SMRT Buses

On 11 August 2016, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced finalised plans leading up to the full transition of the bus industry to the Bus Contracting Model (BCM). SBS Transit and SMRT Buses, the two dominant bus operators in Singapore, have agreed to continue operating their existing bus routes for the next 2 to 10 years under a negotiated contract (NC) which will see the BCM framework apply to their bus operations. This  was implemented from 1st September 2016.

In this article, Land Transport Guru summarizes the various changes in bus fleet and bus services in the build up to the full implementation of the BCM.


Introduction

The the Bus Contracting Model (BCM), formerly known as the Government Contracting Model (GCM), was initiated in mid-2014 to gradually restructure the public bus industry to a Contracting Model. Bus routes were bundled into bus packages, consisting of a single bus depot, several bus interchanges, the bus routes and the buses themselves. With all bus infrastructure belonging to the Government, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) would contract out the bus package, select a bus operator (through a competitive tendering process), and lease these assets to the new operator.

As part of the transition, all existing bus services in Singapore (previously operated by long-standing duopoly between SBS Transit and SMRT Buses) were divided up into 14 route packages, operating under a negotiated contract with the incumbent operator until the Bus Package is tendered out competitively.

The first three tendered contracts were for the Bulim, Loyang and Seletar Bus Packages which were announced between May 2014 and June 2016. These packages were awarded to Tower Transit Singapore, Go Ahead Singapore & SBS Transit respectively, with the operators operating the Bus Package under the tendered conditions from May 2016, September 2016 & March 2018 respectively.

The remaining 11 route packages comprising existing routes operated by SBS Transit & SMRT Buses (consisting of ~80% of buses) will continue to be operated by the incumbent operators for a period of 2 to 10 years, after which the route packages will be up for open tender.

  • SBS Transit will operate 8 packages consisting of 196 bus routes from 01 Sep 2016 for a sum of $5,322 million dollars.
  • SMRT Buses will operate 3 packages consisting of 77 bus routes from 01 Sep 2016 for a sum of $1,865 million dollars.
SMRT MAN NG363F (A24)(SMB8038A) - Airshow Shuttle
SMRT-owned MAN A24 bus, less than 1 year old as of 1 Sep 2016

These contract sums were reached through negotiations between LTA and SBS Transit / SMRT Buses. Rather than the mass purchasing of existing buses, LTA had opted to lease all operator-owned buses from SBST/SMRT until the end of their statutory lifespan (17 years with possible 2 years extension) for a fee equal to buying over the bus at net book value as of 1st September 2016 paid across the lifespan of the bus. At the same time, extra Government-owned buses will be leased to SBST/SMRT to meet service requirements as set by the LTA, and will be reallocated to their new operators as more route packages are handed over.

Altogether, close to S$7.2 billion will be given to SBS Transit and SMRT Buses on this phase of the BCM transition, and in return, LTA would collect all fare revenue gathered by these bus operators. Similarly, the operators would have to deliver service standards set by the LTA.

The 11 packages are designed to not involve any change of operators for bus services currently operated by SBS Transit & SMRT Buses. As such, all employees of SBS Transit and SMRT Buses would not be affected by the full implementation of the BCM from 1st September 2016.


Changes to Revenue Sources

Food and retail outlets
Food and retail outlets generate revenue through rental fees

Under the new BCM, bus operators including SBS Transit & SMRT Buses earn revenue from the following avenues:

  • Operating fee of Bus Services in the various Packages
  • Advertising on Buses and at Bus Interchanges / Terminals
  • Rental from retail spaces at Bus Interchanges / Terminals
  • Incentive framework which consists of
    a) Bus Service Reliability, with indicators on Excess Wait Time and On-Time Adherence
    b) First and Last Bus Punctuality
    c) Maintenance of various Bus Interchanges, Terminals and Bus Depots
    d) Maintenance of the Bus Ticketing System

All fare revenue collected across bus operations would be handed to the LTA. However, operators are also required to pay LTA a leasing fee for the use of Government-owned buses and assets such as bus depots & interchanges.


Bus Services

Under the BCM, public bus services in Singapore will be divided into 14 Route Packages, in which 1 package is currently up for tender and 1 route package each awarded to Tower Transit Singapore & Go Ahead Singapore.

The remaining 11 packages consisting of existing routes operated by SBS Transit & SMRT Buses will continue to be operated by the incumbent operators for a period of 2 to 10 years, after which the route packages will be up for open tender.

  • SBS Transit will operate 8 packages consisting of 196 bus routes from 01 Sep 2016 for a sum of $5,322 million dollars.
  • SMRT Buses will operate 3 packages consisting of 77 bus routes from 01 Sep 2016 for a sum of $1,865 million dollars.

Altogether, close to S$7.2 billion will be given to SBS Transit and SMRT Buses on this phase of the BCM transition. The 11 packages are designed in such a way that there would be no change of operators for bus services currently operated by SBS Transit & SMRT Buses. As such, all employees of SBS Transit and SMRT Buses will not be affected by the full implementation of the BCM from 01 Sep 2016.

Bus services have been split into route packages as such (as announced in 2016):

Package Duration
(years)
Bus Services Depot (Predicted)
Operator: SBS Transit
Bukit Merah
(18 Services)
2 5, 16, 57, 93, 120, 121, 122, 123, 131, 145, 160, 170, 195, 198, 272, 273, 400, 402 Ulu Pandan
Sengkang ‚Äď Hougang
(30 Services)
5 27, 51, 80, 86, 87, 89, 89e, 102, 107, 112, 113, 115, 116, 117, 132, 151, 151e, 153, 159, 161, 163, 165, 324, 325, 371, 372, 6N and 3 new routes Hougang
Bedok
(24 Services)
7 9, 13, 14, 14e, 25, 30, 30e, 35, 40, 42, 45, 46, 168, 196, 196e, 222, 225, 228, 229, 401, 506, CT18, 4N and 1 new route Bedok North
Tampines
(27 Services)
8 4, 10, 10e, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 28, 29, 31, 37, 38, 39, 47, 65, 69, 72, 81, 291, 292, 293, 513, 2N and 3 new routes East Coast
Jurong West
(26 Services)
8 179, 181, 182, 185, 192, 193, 194, 199, 240, 241, 242, 243, 246, 249, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 405, 502 and 2 new routes Soon Lee
Serangoon ‚Äď Eunos
(23 Services)
9 11, 53, 55, 58, 59, 60, 63, 64, 90, 94, 101, 103, 105, 109, 134, 140, 141, 150, 154, 158, 315, 317 and 1 new route Kim Chuan
Clementi
(24 Services)
9 7, 32, 33, 48, 74, 74e, 91, 92, 95, 99, 100, 111, 147, 156, 166, 174, 174e, 175, 191, 197, 200, 201, 3N, 5N Bukit Batok
Bishan ‚Äď Toa Payoh
(24 Services)
10 8, 21, 26, 50, 52, 54, 56, 73, 88, 124, 125, 128, 139, 142, 155, 157, 186, 231, 232, 235, 238, 410, CT8, 1N Ang Mo Kio
Operator: SMRT Buses
Sembawang ‚Äď Yishun
(23 Services)
4 167, 169, 171, 825, 853, 854, 854E, 855, 856, 857, 858, 859, 882, 883, 963, 963E, 963R, 965, 966, 969, 980, 981, NR1, NR2 Mandai
Choa Chu Kang ‚Äď Bukit Panjang
(32 Services)
7 61, 67, 75, 172, 176, 180, 184, 188, 188E, 188R, 190, 300, 301, 302, 307, 308, 700, 868, 920, 922, 927, 970, 971E, 972, 975, 979, 982E, 983, 985, BPS1, NR3, NR8 Kranji
Woodlands
(21 Services)
7 178, 187, 900, 901, 902, 903, 904, 911, 912, 913, 925, 926, 950, 951E, 960, 961, 962, 964, NR5, NR6, NR7 Woodlands
Changes to the above route table have been made since 2016. Refer to the route packages table in the Bus Contracting Model article for the latest status.
Chinatown Direct CT28, technically withdrawan
Chinatown Direct CT28, technically withdrawan

It is worth noting that Chinatown Direct CT28 was not allocated to any route package, indicating that the seasonal bus service between Clementi and Chinatown will no longer operate from next year onwards.

Special Ad-hoc F1 Midnight Bus Services by SBS Transit (EW1, EW5, EW27 & NS16) will no longer be in operation from this year’s F1 season, as these services are not part of the negotiated contracts.

In addition, NightRider and Nite Owl services have been carried forward to remain with SBS Transit and SMRT, indicating that a reorganization of night bus services, if any, will have to take place at a later date.

More information on the route packages and bus services can be found in our main article on the Bus Contracting Model (BCM) here.


Parks 408 at HarbourFront Int, now withdrawn
Parks 408 at HarbourFront Int, now withdrawn

Private Operator Takeovers

In recent times, SBS Transit & SMRT Buses have been terminating operations of some basic-plus bus services such as Premium and Parks Services, by either transferring them to Private Bus Operators or withdrawing them entirely. As these services are not included in the Bus Contracting Model, SBS Transit & SMRT Buses would not be able to operate those services using their fleet of LTA-owned buses under new regulations. More on the new fleet regulations will be discussed in the next section on bus fleets under the BCM.

The table below provides a summary on all bus services transferred or terminated in the build up to the BCM for SBS Transit & SMRT Buses:

Service Route Details New Operator / Withdrawn Date of Implementation
SMRT Premium 599 Hougang St 51 > CBD Xing Sheng Transport Services 29 Aug 2016
SMRT Premium 588 Sin Ming Ave > CBD Commute Solutions LLP 29 Aug 2016
SMRT Premium 531 Simei Road <> CBD Commute Solutions LLP 29 Aug 2016
SMRT Premium 530 River Valley Road > CBD EML Transport Service 29 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Premium 554 Tampines Ave 4 > CBD Tan Bus Transport 29 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Premium 565 Ah Hood Rd > CBD City Transit Pte Ltd 29 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Premium 538 Pasir Ris Dr 3 > CBD Aedge Holdings Pte Ltd 29 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Premium 534 Yio Chu Kang Rd > CBD City Bus Services 29 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Premium 563 Bukit Timah Rd > CBD Withdrawn 29 Aug 2016
SMRT Premium 546 Geylang Bahru > CBD Withdrawn 29 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Premium 564 Farrer Rd > CBD Commute Solutions LLP 15 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Premium 536 Jurong West Ave 3 > CBD Aedge Holdings Pte Ltd 15 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Premium 533 Teban Gardens Rd > CBD Aedge Holdings Pte Ltd 15 Aug 2016
SBS Transit Parks 408 Harbourfront ‚Üļ¬†Port Road Withdrawn 1 Aug 2016
SMRT Resorts World Sentosa¬†RWS8 Resorts World Sentosa ‚Üļ
Telok Blangah Rd
Tong Tar Transport Service Pte Ltd 1 Jul 2016
SBS Transit Premium 543 Jurong East Ave 1 > CBD Aedge Holdings Pte Ltd 22 Feb 2016
SBS Transit Premium 542 Yung Ho Rd > CBD Aedge Holdings Pte Ltd 22 Feb 2016
SBS Transit Premium 569 Punggol > CBD Aedge Holdings Pte Ltd 18 Jan 2016
SBS Transit Premium 550 Sengkang East Ave > CBD Transcity Bus Services 13 Jul 2015
SBS Transit Premium 548 Ang Mo Kio Ave 5 > CBD Aedge Holdings Pte Ltd 13 Jul 2015
SBS Transit Premium 557 Choa Chu Kang Ave 3 > CBD Commute Solutions LLP 15 Sep 2014
SBS Transit Premium 556 Choa Chu Kang North 7 > CBD Commute Solutions LLP 15 Sep 2014
SBS Transit Premium 559 Yishun Ave 11 > CBD Commute Solutions LLP 1 Sep 2014
SBS Transit Premium 558 Yishun Ring Rd> CBD Commute Solutions LLP
(withdrawn 3 May 2016)
25 Aug 2014
SBS Transit Premium 532 Clementi Ave 4 > CBD Commute Solutions LLP 11 Aug 2014
SBS Transit Premium 566 Meyer Rd > CBD Commute Solutions LLP 04 Aug 2014

PPSS Withdrawals, New Shortworking Trips

In addition to the basic-plus bus services, Peak Period Short Services (PPSS) have been absorbed into the operational requirements of the BCM route packages. These services are initially contracted out to Private Bus Operators and will be operated by the parent service operator (SBS Transit / SMRT Buses / Tower Transit Singapore / Go Ahead Singapore) once their contract expires, with no change in route and little change in timings. This leaves only the City Direct Bus Services to be operated by Private Bus Operators, which are tendered out separately under the Bus Contracting Model.

To meet the handover date, the contracts for these seven PPSS services have been extended past their two-year contract durations and will operate for the last time on 31 August 2016. They will be operated by SBS Transit / SMRT Buses from 1 September 2016 using new route numbers.

PPSS Route Operator Launch Date New Route Number New Operator
222P Bedok MRT ‚Üļ¬†Chai Chee Drive ComfortDelGro Bus Pte Ltd 29 Apr 2014 222B SBS Transit Ltd
240P Lakeside MRT ‚Üļ¬†Boon Lay MRT Tong Tar Transport Service 22 Apr 2014 240M SBS Transit Ltd
268P Ang Mo Kio MRT ‚ᥬ†Ang Mo Kio Avenue 9 Commute Solutions LLP &
BT & Tan Transport
06 May 2014 268B / 268C SBS Transit Ltd
291P Tampines Int ‚Üļ¬†Tampines Street 32 / 33 Travel GSH Pte Ltd 24 Jun 2014 291 SBS Transit Ltd
293P Tampines Int ‚Üļ¬†Tampines Street 45 Travel GSH Pte Ltd 24 Jun 2014 293 SBS Transit Ltd
307P Choa Chu Kang MRT ‚Üļ¬†Choa Chu Kang St 62 Travel GSH Pte Ltd 30 Jun 2014 307A SMRT Buses Ltd
912P Woodlands Int ‚Üļ Woodlands Street 41 Commute Solutions LLP &
BT & Tan Transport
14 Apr 2014 912M SMRT Buses Ltd

In addition to new Shortworking Trips replacing the withdrawn PPSS routes, Shortworking Trip 53A from Pasir Ris Drive 1 to Changi Airport PTB2 and Shortworking Trip 962C from Woodlands Ave 5 to Woodlands Ave 6 were introduced on the same day, as part of service enhancements

For more information on PPSS handovers, refer to Changes to Peak Period Short Services (PPSS). More photos are attached in the Gallery section below.


Bus Fleet

SBST Volvo B9TL (SBS7H) - Service 291, transferred to LTA ownership
SBST Volvo B9TL (SBS7H) – Service 291, transferred to LTA ownership

Part of the Bus Contracting Model requires LTA to build up a fleet of Government-owned buses, to be leased to public bus operators for their operational needs in fulfilling the requirements of the bus packages. Under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) in 2012, LTA funded 1,000 new buses to boost the fleet of both SBS Transit and SMRT Buses. These new buses form part of SBS Transit & SMRT orders of Volvo B9TL, Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaro, MAN A22 and Alexander Dennis Enviro500 buses.

An additional order of MAN A95 double decker buses (of unknown quantity) was placed by the LTA directly for the BCM, and these buses were registered from February 2016.

In December 2015, LTA completed its buyback of Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaro & Volvo B9TL BSEP buses owned by SBS Transit, forming the first pool of buses for use in the BCM. The BSEP bus buyback for SMRT Buses consisting of Alexander Dennis Enviro500 and MAN A22 buses was completed in May 2016. Also in December 2015, LTA bought over 50 buses delivered to SBS Transit and registered between June to December 2015, comprising of non-BSEP Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaro & Volvo B9TL buses.

Main article: Transitioning of Buses to Bus Contracting Model

SBS Transit

SBS Transit has been leasing additional buses from LTA to support their increase in fleet requirements for their operations to fulfill the BCM requirements. These new Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaro and Volvo B9TL buses bear the SG-prefix on their registration plates and are no different from existing units operating on revenue service, hence the changes are not obvious.

SMRT Buses РNew Fleet

Recently, SMRT Buses have been leasing additional buses from LTA to support their increase in fleet requirements for their operations to fulfill the BCM requirements. Such buses includes 9 Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses in March 2016 and 21 Volvo B9TL buses in July 2016 (in exchange for Alexander Dennis Enviro500 buses).

More Mercedes-Benz Citaro and Volvo B9TL have been added to the fleet leading up to the 1 September handover date, resulting in the noticeable increase of SBS Transit-spec buses on SMRT revenue service. Additional MAN A95 buses (SMRT-specification but ordered by LTA) were take out of storage and put on revenue service.

New MAN A95 buses at Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange
New MAN A95 buses at Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange

Main Articles:

Owing to the¬†lack of lead time for repainting¬†these Mercedes-Benz Citaro and Volvo B9TL buses into Lush Green before 1 September 2016, SMRT started¬†deploying them in various versions of¬†SBS Transit’s corporate base livery starting¬†in late August 2016, leading to a rather messy sight. In addition,¬†MAN A95 buses were painted in two different shades of Lush Green, and later-registered units have been equipped with USB charging ports.

Mercedes-Benz O530 Citaro:

SMRT Buses received¬†Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses built to SBS Transit specifications. While earlier units were painted with SMRT’s pixellated livery,¬†later-registered units were put into service with various versions of SBS Transit base livery. For more information, visit the main article at¬†New Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses for SMRT Buses.

Volvo B9TL:

SMRT Buses received Volvo B9TL¬†buses¬†built to SBS Transit specifications. Some units¬†were painted in LTA’s standard Lush Green¬†livery while other units were¬†put into service with SBS Transit base livery and SMRT logos. For more information, visit the main article at¬†SMRT Volvo B9TL Begin Operations.

MAN A95:

SMRT Buses received MAN A95 buses¬†built to its own original¬†specifications (purchased by the LTA and put in storage for months). A few¬†units¬†were painted in SMRT’s pixellated livery, and most were painted in two versions of LTA’s standard Lush Green¬†livery. The first version had a black front between the headlights and a darker shade of green. The second version was painted in a uniform shade of lighter green.

Later-registered units were fitted with USB Charging Ports. For more information, visit the main article at New MAN A95 buses for SMRT.


Trivial Matters:

The LTA will also standardize the design of thermal paper which tickets are printed on. The light-blue watermarked LTA tickets, previously used on City Direct / Peak Period Short Services, will now be used on all buses, replacing the red watermarked SBS Transit and SMRT thermal paper.

Also, the service plate numbers on bus stop pole is currently undergoing replacement to a standard Lush Green background, instead of colours which denote the bus service operator (such as red for SBS Transit). This replacement drive has started with all bus stops formerly served by withdrawn PPSS routes (222P, 240P, 268P, 291P, 293P, 307P, 912P) and will eventually be standard across Singapore.


Gallery (Shortworking Trips):

Photos of SBS Transit Service 240M and SMRT Service 962C are attached further up the article.


External Links & References:

21 thoughts on “Bus industry completes transition to Bus Contracting Model

  • 28 August 2016 at 9:23 PM
    Permalink

    Wait a second… The man A95 at old woodlands int was built to SBS specifications?!?! Does that mean SBS will operate A95 since LTA can deploy the buses whatever they want?

    Reply
    • 30 August 2016 at 9:31 PM
      Permalink

      There could be a mistake – Volvo B9TL and Mercedes-Benz Citaro are built to SBS’s, while the MANs and Alexander-Dennis Enviro500s are built to SMRT’s.

      Anyway, LTA should also include other wheelchair-accessible bus models already in service. In the future they could do R&D to come up with newer bus models that are irregardless of SBS or SMRT specifications.

      Reply
    • 16 September 2016 at 11:14 AM
      Permalink

      It couldn’t be , just look at the photos it in SMRT specs

      Reply
  • 27 August 2016 at 7:08 PM
    Permalink

    Does this mean that SBS Transit and SMRT will no longer operate all the current bus routes in 10 years? Please answer.

    Reply
    • 30 August 2016 at 9:25 PM
      Permalink

      Unless SBS and SMRT does something (e.g. improve service quality), this will happen, sadly.

      On the other hand, commuters need to change their mindset of incumbent operators. Yes, they might not cherish moments spent on these buses, but, once they are gone, there is a sense of yearning. Take 408 and CT28 for example.

      Reply
  • 27 August 2016 at 3:56 PM
    Permalink

    I am hoping to see NightRider and Nite Owl reorganized as one unified group with one unified fare structure. Numbering should also change as well into, say, 1-14? I’m not sure about the prefix though…

    -SMRT operates 1-8, with NR1 and NR6 renumbered as 1 and 2 and 4 being the skipped number.
    -SBS Transit operates 9-14.

    Seriously, there should be one or two allocated to Bulim and Loyang, but why did LTA announce the services of the remaining services only later?

    Services might also change from time to time. e.g. 96, 282, 284 and 285 was under Bulim. Probably, they should be allocated to Clementi after a few years.

    Reply
    • 28 August 2016 at 9:23 PM
      Permalink

      Once package set, no more changes.

      Reply
    • 16 September 2016 at 11:22 AM
      Permalink

      It makes sense to re-organise the NiteOwl/NightOwl services as it is confusing af now
      I think there will be some NiteOwl/Night Rider services allocated to Bulim , Loyang and Seletar Services.
      Or for the worst , NiteOwl/Night Rider services are removed or revamped
      It all up to LTA’s decision lor

      Reply
  • 27 August 2016 at 3:35 PM
    Permalink

    Should give public bus operators a chance for Premium services. They are all made wheelchair-accessible, and yet the decision is reverted back by LTA by leasing it to private operators.

    Also, CT28 should be given an extension of route to increase ridership, instead of withdrawing it.

    Reply
  • 27 August 2016 at 2:46 PM
    Permalink

    Are articulated buses going to be leased to other operators or SMRT owns it all?

    Reply
    • 28 August 2016 at 9:21 PM
      Permalink

      Leased… All buses are now government owned (Even retiring olympians and dennis lol)

      Reply
      • 31 August 2016 at 10:15 PM
        Permalink

        No lah those just stay with the incumbents , it doesn’t make sense for the gov to buy a rotting product…

        Reply
    • 30 August 2016 at 9:33 PM
      Permalink

      But seriously, LTA should consider including them to BCM; Bulim used to house them.

      Reply
    • 16 September 2016 at 11:08 AM
      Permalink

      I’m sure that LTA owns it (ARGH IDK) but bendies will retire in 2018 with that cool but shortlived SMRT Pixellated Livery :,(

      Reply
      • 16 September 2016 at 11:09 AM
        Permalink

        Let’s see how the with the Lush Green livery XD

        Reply

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