Public Buses converted into COVID-19 Bus Transporters (COMET MAXI)

Public buses have been retrofitted into dedicated COVID-19 patient transport vehicles, known as COMET MAXI (COVID-19 Multi-Passenger Enhanced Transporter). Owned by Sheares Healthcare and operated by Strides Transportation, the ‘MAXI‘ distinguishes the bus from other small vehicles used for patient transport.

The COMET MAXI is the product of a collaboration between SMRT Corporation, HOPE Technik and Sheares Healthcare, with the support of Temasek Foundation. Buses are used to facilitate the mass transfer of COVID-19 patients between facilities, such as hospitals, dormitories and various community facilities.

Twenty buses were converted into COMET MAXIs, all of which were MAN A22 (Euro V) buses previously owned by SMRT Corporation. These buses entered revenue service in late 2011, and were re-registered as private buses. Each bus seats around 34 patients.

History

Information regarding the collaboration was first shared on 25 April 2020, in a Facebook post by Temasek Holdings’ Chief Executive, Ho Ching, who then referred to buses as COVID-19 Bus Transporters. Initial photos show an SMRT MAN A22 undergoing conversion works, and up to 50 buses will similarly be converted (comprising 20 buses in the first batch, and 30 buses in a later batch). Converted buses are also re-registered as private buses. Ho Ching edited her Facebook post on 29 April 2020 reflecting several updates on the COMETs.

On 12 May 2020, a joint statement was issued by SMRT Corporation and partners Temasek Foundation, HOPE Technik and Sheares Healthcare, describing the features and operational details regarding the COMET MAXI fleet

Stakeholders

TRIGEN Automotive, the special function vehicle division of HOPE Technik, designed and engineered COMET MAXI’s 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.

SMRT subsidiary Strides Transportation, a local limousine and premium bus service provider, oversees the operations, driver training and maintenance of the COMET MAXI fleet. Sheares Healthcare, which invests in and provides healthcare delivery services in Asia, owns the fleet of COMET MAXIs and liaises with the Ministry of Health to complement its patient transport services.


Interior Features

The COMET MAXI vehicles are converted from existing MAN A22 (Euro V) buses in SMRT’s fleet. According to SMRT, these buses were chosen for their low-floor layout (for wheelchair accessibility), as well as being ‘relatively new… to make sure they are reliable on the road’⁠— despite being close to 9 years old.

Each bus takes two to three days to retrofit, and the modifications are ‘reversible’, according to TRIGEN Automotive.

As part of the modifications, an airtight floor-to-ceiling partition separates the rear passenger compartment from the front section of the bus. The dividing wall features windows and an emergency door for cross-compartment passage. Furthermore, the front compartment retains two wheel arch seats for the transport of accompanying medical or administrative personnel (such as paramedics, admin support manager, escort officer, etc) to be seated on board.

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. This device is installed on the right side of the bus in place of a window (near the exit door) and protruding into the bus cabin; two seats are removed to accommodate the system. A differential pressure gauge is installed at the side of the front row seats.

The passenger cabin features safe distancing posters and individual seat numbers for each of the 34 seats. Hand sanitizers are provided at the exit door for passengers.

Finally, as part of conversion works, all revenue service equipment was removed from these buses.

Exterior Features

Prior to conversion works, buses were either painted in SMRT Buses’ Beige livery (18 buses); SMRT Buses’ Pixel Livery (SMB203S only); or LTA’s Lush Green livery (SMB208D only).

Most converted buses entered COMET MAXI service in original liveries with SMRT and SG♡Bus logos removed from the exterior of the vehicle, with some exceptions. A handful of buses were repainted to a Silver livery, reminiscent of the silver base coat that formed SMRT Buses’ ‘pixel’ corporate livery launched in 2013.  The final COMET MAXI livery was unveiled at a press event on 12 May 2020, featuring the same silver livery previously identified, but with additional decals on the exterior.

COMET MAXI buses have been identified in 4 different liveries: SMRT Beige, LTA Lush Green, Silver base livery, and COMET MAXI livery. All buses will likely be progressively repainted to the COMET MAXI livery.

White perforated vinyl stickers are affixed to the bus’ side and rear windows, similar to that used on bus advertising stickers, and are likely intended as privacy screens. The passenger compartment is almost completely enclosed by these stickers.


Deployment

The COMET MAXI fleet of buses is used to facilitate the mass transfer of passengers between facilities, including hospitals, dormitories and various community facilities. Buses were deployed starting on 6 May 2020, according to the press release.

Driver matters

COMET MAXI Driver in PPE (Photo: SMRT)

COMET MAXI drivers are not drawn from SMRT’s pool of bus drivers, but are specifically recruited for the job and must have a Class 4 drivers licence.

Prior to deployment, COMET MAXI drivers undergo 20 hours of training conducted by SMRT, including familiarisation with operating the vehicles’ retrofitted safety features. An additional two hours of training was 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.


Modified Buses

For MAN A22 buses undergoing COMET MAXI conversion, their road tax was first suspended and reflected as Non-User Lay-Up status while undergoing or pending modification works.

In addition, COMETs are re-registered as Private Buses, bearing the Private Bus registration prefix from PC onwards (as of April 2020). This enables buses to be operated by Class 4 driving license holders, without requiring an Omnibus Driver Vocational Licence (ODVL).

All 20 SMRT MAN A22s under the first batch of COMET MAXI conversion have been identified. The list will be gradually updated when their corresponding private bus registration numbers are identified. Buses will likely be progressively repainted to the COMET MAXI livery, featuring a silver base coat with COMET MAXI identifying decals.

Converted to COMET MAXI (COVID-19 Multi-Passenger Enhanced Transporter)
Former Registration (Public Bus) New Registration (Private Bus)
SMB196D TBC
SMB197B TBC
SMB198Z TBC
SMB200A PC9271U
SMB201Y TBC
SMB202U TBC
SMB203S TBC
SMB204P TBC
SMB205L TBC
SMB206J TBC
SMB207G TBC
SMB208D PC9043L
SMB209B TBC
SMB210X TBC
SMB212R TBC
SMB214K PC9040U
SMB215H TBC
SMB217C TBC
SMB218A TBC
SMB219Y PC8969Y

These buses first entered revenue service in late 2011.

Private bus registrations identified: (20 units)

  • PC8932C; PC8941B; PC8948H; PC8969Y; PC8976B; PC8997R; PC9034M; PC9040U; PC9043L; PC9054E; PC9064B; PC9078L; PC9089E; PC9098D; PC9173U; PC9174S; PC9255S; PC9263T; PC9264R; PC9271U

Gallery:

SMRT Beige Livery
Lush Green Livery
COMET MAXI Livery

The ‘COMET MAXI’ logo is a gold heart which represents unity during the COVID-19 period and the desire to support the needs of the community during challenging times. The three COMET values are Care, Safety and Resilience.

Online circulated images

Exterior photograph is taken at the lobby of HOPE Technik in Penjuru.

SMRT logos have been removed from the exterior of the vehicle. Perforated vinyl stickers are affixed to the bus’ side and rear windows, similar to that used on bus advertising stickers, and are likely intended as privacy screens.

Pre-modification:

COMET MAXI Specifications at a glance

Registration no. PC8932C; PC8941B; PC8948H; PC8969Y; PC8976B; PC8997R; PC9034M; PC9040U; PC9043L; PC9054E; PC9064B; PC9078L; PC9089E; PC9098D; PC9173U; PC9174S; PC9255S; PC9263T; PC9264R; PC9271U
Quantity 20 buses
Owner / operator Owned by Sheares Healthcare; operated by Strides Transportation
Registration date April-May 2020
Technical Specifications
Bus Model MAN NL323F (A22)
Engine MAN D2066 LUH-32 engine
Emission Standard Euro V compliant via EGR / MAN PM-Kat®
Transmission ZF EcoLife 6 AP 2000 B (6-speed)
Bodywork MAN Lion’s City Hybrid  (Built under license by Gemilang Coachworks)
EDS Mobitec MobiLED (not in use)
Air conditioning Independent air conditioning systems in both cabins
Unknown (front cabin);  Denso LD8u (rear cabin)
Doors Masats
Seating capacity Front cabin: 1 driver & 2 seated passengers
Rear cabin: 34 passengers & 1 wheelchair (excluding foldable seats)
COMET MAXI Modifications
Retrofit company TRIGEN Automotive (a division of HOPE Technik) and Liannex Corporation
Specifications Front/rear cabin partition with emergency door
Rear cabin Negative Pressure System with HEPA filter
Perforated vinyl stickers for window privacy screens
Hand sanitizers
All revenue service equipment removed
Livery SMRT beige/red livery
LTA’s Lush Green livery
Silver base livery
‘COMET MAXI’ livery – featuring gold, black and red decals on Silver base livery

Other patient transport vehicles

Ho Ching’s Facebook post also called for Class 3 or Class 4 driving license holders to “volunteer to drive either the Comet-mini, or Comet-maxi.” Applicants may register their interest on https://healthcarecorps.gov.sg/.

According to a Straits Times news article published 13 May 2020, about 45 buses were deployed to transport up to 600 Covid-19 patients daily, with the fleet formed of Lentor Ambulance and other commercial operators. The fleet was to be expanded to 60 in the coming weeks. However, a breakdown of the types of vehicles was not stated.


Other Conversions

Apart from this project, several initiatives have been taken around the world to convert buses for transporting COVID-19 patients.

Recently, in Neu-Ulm (Bavaria), Daimler Buses converted a Mercedes-Benz Citaro citybus into an intensive care patient transport vehicle, for the transfer of COVID-19 patients.


Article edit history:

This article originally implied that buses may be operating under their original SMB-prefixed registration plates as COVID-19 Bus Transporters, perhaps under a Special Purpose License or under an Exemption Order under the Road Traffic Act issued for the purpose of transporting COVID-19 patients. It has since been confirmed that they will be re-registered as private buses.

In addition, the article was also revised based on the new terminology of “Covid Multi-pax enhanced transporter” edited on Ho Ching’s Facebook post on 29 April 2020.

The official name “COMET MAXI” and further details are updated with the press release on 12 May 2020.

Information history:

Information regarding the collaboration was first shared on 25 April 2020, in a Facebook post by Temasek Holdings’ Chief Executive, Ho Ching, who then referred to buses as COVID-19 Bus Transporters. Initial photos show an SMRT MAN A22 undergoing conversion works, and up to 50 buses will similarly be converted (comprising 20 buses in the first batch, and 30 buses in a later batch). Converted buses are also re-registered as private buses. Ho Ching edited her Facebook post on 29 April 2020 reflecting several updates on the COMETs.

On 12 May 2020, a joint statement was issued by SMRT Corporation and partners Temasek Foundation, HOPE Technik and Sheares Healthcare.


See Also:

References:


45 thoughts on “Public Buses converted into COVID-19 Bus Transporters (COMET MAXI)

  • 17 May 2020 at 10:27 AM
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    Cash box still there leh.

    Anyway, Singapore Matters FB page says 45 of these buses are ready, and 60 of them in total will be put in service.

    Reply
    • 19 May 2020 at 2:18 PM
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      Thats why the cash box is still there.

      Reply
      • 30 May 2020 at 5:50 AM
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        Weren’t all revenue service equipment meant to be uninstalled? I know the EZLink card readers are gone.

        Reply
  • 16 May 2020 at 3:08 AM
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    I don’t think seating capacity is 34 when the right front axle row seat is single type

    Reply
  • 15 May 2020 at 4:41 PM
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    Seating capacity is mentioned above. Also I believe no standing is allowed on the COMET Maxi buses.

    Reply
  • 14 May 2020 at 6:54 PM
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    OneMotoring stated that no record found for PC8941B under Sheares Healthcare Group Pte Ltd (UEN 201403104E).

    Reply
    • 15 May 2020 at 1:44 PM
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      Most probably under Strides Transportation

      Reply
      • 16 May 2020 at 9:12 PM
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        Under Strides Transportation. Possibly check Strides.

        Reply
  • 14 May 2020 at 4:24 PM
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    Where can i find the standing and seat capacity of all bus models?

    Reply

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