Historical Routes of Trunk Services


Trunk routes are the backbone of the bus network, providing the many inter-town connections which integrate effectively with each other. These bus routes have been with us since independence years and have defined the public transportation landscape. Even after the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) came into operation, trunk routes were adapted to better suit commuters needs. Over time, it is these bus routes that define our commuting patterns and our way of life.

A History:

An appreciation of trunk routes would no doubt touch upon the 1971 Bus Reorganisation, where a bold move was undertaken to rationalise all 130 existing bus routes (operated by eleven independent bus companies) into 130 new bus routes, operated by four independent companies. Rationalised bus routes providing point-to-point connections would benefit commuters by minimizing time-consuming and costly bus transfers, and bus operations as a whole, by minimizing wasteful duplication of services. Few of these services still survive today largely intact after over 40 years, such as Services 33, 143 and 170, while others like Services 13, 125, 163, 173 and 189 were heavily modified and now bear hardly any resemblance to their former routings.

Throughout the years, various stages of bus reorganization/rationalization were carried out, such as another smaller-scale reorganization in 1974. From then onwards, bus routes remained relatively intact until the 1980s and 1990s, when the commencement of the North-South and East-West MRT lines led to large-scale route amendments and withdrawals to avoid wasteful duplication. This slow transition to a hub-and-spoke bus network repying on the rail backbone lead to the prevalence of Feeder bus services, and trunk routes were gradually confined to largely inter-town connections.

The most recent large-scale rationalization occurred in 2003 when the North-East MRT Line opened, and many routes plying between Serangoon/Hougang/Sengkang and the City were shortened or withdrawn altogether (Service 147 was rather famously spared the axe after public objection), and other nearby bus routes were amended to serve the new MRT stations directly. The major Upper Serangoon Road corridor saw its bus routes slashed as bus servces such as 81, 82, 85, 97, 103, 106 and 111 had their NEL-duplicating sectors removed (or withdrawn in Service 85’s case).

Today, trunk routes are not actively rationalized due to their complementary role with newer medium-rail developments, such as the Circle, Downtown and Thomson-East Coast MRT lines. And as they continue to serve us, the Historical Routes of Trunk Services section will aim to compile these historical bus routes to better appreciate the evolution of our public bus network.

Links to articles:

Some road names, particularly those from the 1970s, may sound alien to many of us with no prior knowledge of road layout in that era. Fortunately, historical maps dating back to 1954 can be conveniently accessed from this website.

External Links & References:

  • SBS / TransitLink Bus Guides: 1979 – 2014
  • SGWiki
  • Singapore Historical Maps
  • Acronyms and abbreviations used throughout these pages for ease of reading and avoiding long repetitive words. For a full list of such short-forms, click here.

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