In support of COVID-19 efforts in Singapore, a Temasek-led initiative retrofitted passenger vehicles into dedicated COVID-19 patient transport vehicles.
Known as COMET (COVID-19 Multi-Passenger Enhanced Transporter), these vehicles are used to facilitate the mass transfer of COVID-19 patients between hospitals, dormitories and community facilities. These transporters complement existing patient transport services available and enable the mobility of COVID-19 patients amidst the pandemic.
Three types of COMET vehicles have been identified. The COMET MAXI was introduced back in May 2020, while the COMET MIDI and MINI were introduced recently (June 2020).
|COMET MAXI||MAN A22 (12-metre public bus)||20||34 pax|
|Isuzu LT434P (49-Seater Coach)||≥ 1||~45 pax|
|Scania K230UB (12-metre public bus)||5||~32 pax|
|COMET MIDI||Mitsubishi Rosa (minibus)||10||23 pax|
|COMET MINI||Toyota Hiace (van)||5||9 pax|
The COMET programme is a collaboration between SMRT Corporation, HOPE Technik and Sheares Healthcare, with the support of Temasek Foundation. Vehicles are owned by Sheares Healthcare and operated by Strides Transportation.
Starting in June 2020, Leisure Frontier (a private bus operator) & SBS Transit were brought onboard with the contribution of their existing buses into COMET MAXI buses.
TRIGEN Automotive, the special function vehicle division of HOPE Technik, designed and engineered COMET safety features. HOPE Technik is a home-grown engineering firm with expertise in mechanical, electrical & electronics, and software engineering since 2006. Conversion works are undertaken by Liannex Corporation.
The COMET livery was unveiled at a press event on 12 May 2020, affixed on COMET MAXI buses. The livery comprises COMET identifying decals, such as the COMET logo, a tricolour stripe (Gold, Red and Black) around the lower portion of the bus, and company logos of stakeholders (Temasek Foundation, SMRT Corporation, Sheares Healthcare and HOPE Technik) at the rear.
The base livery is silver for COMET MAXI MAN A22 buses, and white for COMET MIDI, COMET MINI vehicles, as well as the COMET MAXI Scania K230UB buses.
The COMET MAXI Coach retains their original base colours with COMET MAXI decals on the bus exterior.
The driver’s cab in COMET vehicles is separated from the passenger cabin by an airtight partition wall. Each compartment is fitted with its own independent air-conditioning system, which prevents air circulation between both cabins. The passenger cabin is also equipped with a Negative Pressure System with a HEPA filter which ensures that only clean air is filtered out from the passengers’ compartment.
To accommodate the Negative Pressure System onboard COMET buses, seats were removed as part of the modifications.
COMET drivers are specifically recruited for the job, rather than being drawn from SMRT’s operational fleet of bus drivers. Both COMET MAXI and MIDI drivers require a Class 4 drivers’ license, while the COMET MINI requires a Class 3 drivers’ license.
Prior to deployment, COMET drivers undergo training conducted by SMRT, including familiarisation with operating the vehicles’ retrofitted safety features.
Additional training is conducted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force on the proper use of personal protective equipment (medical gown, gloves, and N95 mask) which drivers are required to put on while on duty.
Drivers do not come into contact with passengers, and vehicles are decontaminated after each deployment.
Three models of COMET vehicles have been featured in various promotional material by SMRT Corporation & Temasek Foundation. The COMET MAXIs are converted public buses / coaches, COMET MIDIs are minibuses, and COMET MINIs are passenger vans.
Although smaller in size, the COMET MIDIs and MINIs are able to gain better access to various pick-up and drop-off points, such as hospitals’ A&E driveways. Collectively, the expanded COMET fleet offers greater operational flexibility and better ground responsiveness.
COMET MAXI vehicles are ~12-metre buses used for large-volume transport of patients.
The first COMET MAXI vehicles were public buses previously operated by SMRT Buses. A total of twenty MAN A22 (Euro V) buses were converted to COMET MAXIs, and re-registered as private buses. Each bus seats 34 patients.
In June 2020, more COMET MAXI vehicle types were spotted, with Leisure Frontier’s Isuzu LT434P coaches as well as 5 SBS Transit Scania K230UB buses being retrofitted.
COMET MIDI vehicles are Mitsubishi Rosa minibuses previously operated by Strides Transportation on shuttle bus services or ad-hoc charters. Each minibus seats 23 patients.
PC4337Y was featured on SMRT’s Facebook page in the COMET MIDI and MINI promotional post. This minibus was previously deployed on the Gleneagles Hospital – Mount Elizabeth Orchard – Youth Park shuttle.
COMET MINI vehicles are retrofitted Toyota Hiace passenger minivans. Each van seats 9 patients.
SMRT subsidiary Strides Transportation, a local limousine and premium bus service provider, oversees the operations, driver training and maintenance of the COMET fleet. Sheares Healthcare, which invests in and provides healthcare delivery services in Asia, owns the fleet of COMET buses and liaises with the Ministry of Health to complement its patient transport services.
In an update on SMRT’s Facebook page on 8 June 2020, the COMET MAXIs have ferried an average of 450 passengers per day since its first deployment early May 2020.
COMET MAXI and COMET MINI buses were sold to various private bus operators in 2021.
- 25 April 2020: Retrofitting works on twenty SMRT MAN A22 buses revealed by Ho Ching in Facebook post; then referred to as COVID-19 Bus Transporters
- 29 April 2020: Updated name to COMET MAXI (COVID-19 Multi-Passenger Enhanced Transporter)
- 6 May 2020: Start of COMET MAXI deployment
- 12 May 2020: Joint statement issued by SMRT Corporation and partners Temasek Foundation, HOPE Technik and Sheares Healthcare, describing the features and operational details regarding the COMET MAXI fleet
- 8 Jun 2020: Unveiling of COMET MIDI and COMET MINI on SMRT Facebook; ten 23-seater MIDIs and five 9-seater MINIs to be delivered
- 16 Jun 2020: Confirmation of SBS Transit Scania K230UB and Leisure Frontier (Private Bus Operator) coaches undergoing conversion works
- 3 Jul 2020: Start of deployment for COMET MAXI Scania K230UB buses