SMRT puts up Expression of Interest Notice for Sale of OC500LE and Citaro buses

SMRT Corporation has recently sought Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the sale of its Mercedes-Benz OC500LE and Citaro buses, due for retirement in several years’ time.

In a tender released on the procurement section of its website dated 18 January 2021, QX20-063 Expression of Interest was published, with the accompanying description “Sales of Mercedes OC500 Buses and Citaro Buses (EOI)“.

While the lifespan expiry of these buses is not expected until 2025 and 2027 respectively, the recent tender hints at SMRT’s plans for these buses ahead of their 17-year statutory lifespan amid shrinking fleet requirements as a result of the Bus Contracting Model (BCM).


Background

The two Mercedes bus models were purchased by SMRT Buses at least ten years ago, and have been on revenue service ever since. In addition, all public buses in Singapore are subject to a 17-year statutory lifespan.

Bus Model Registration Nos: Registered Lifespan expiry
Mercedes-Benz OC500LE (134 units) SMB1H – SMB134H Jun 2008 – Oct 2009 Jun 2025 – Oct 2026
Mercedes-Benz Citaro (51 units) SMB136C, SMB139U – SMB188C Mar 2010 – Nov 2011 Mar 2027 – Nov 2028

A combined total of 185 buses were procured.

Purchase of Buses

Between 2008 and 2009, a total of 134 Mercedes-Benz OC500LE buses were registered to SMRT Buses. These buses were SMRT’s first wheelchair-accessible buses, and the first buses in Southeast Asia to meet the stringent Euro V emission standards.

Following the Mercedes-Benz OC500LE orders, SMRT purchased a total of 51 Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses, which were registered between March 2010 and November 2011. These fully-low-floor buses were also Euro V-compliant.

A combined total of 185 buses were procured.

Bus Contracting Model

Under the BCM which took effect on 1 September 2016, most existing bus services continue to be operated by SBS Transit & SMRT Buses (hereinafter called SMRT) under Negotiated Contract (NC) terms, which are agreed upon between Public Transport Operators (PTOs) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Buses that SBS Transit & SMRT purchased before BCM, not under the government’s Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) nor under procurement contracts which were taken over by LTA, are leased to LTA for availability fees.

In other words, buses previously bought by SBS Transit and SMRT continue to be owned and operated by these PTOs. At the same time, LTA leases these buses from the PTOs to be operated on revenue service, to cover up for the shortfall of Government-owned buses. This scheme allowed PTOs to continue holding on to existing bus assets, and at the same time, LTA avoids having to directly buy over thousands of buses at the onset of the BCM in 2016, which would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars upfront. To sum up, LTA pays PTOs an availability fee for the use of PTO-owned bus assets. This is separate from the service fee, which LTA pays out for the day-to-day operation of revenue bus services.

During the months leading up to a transition from Negotiated to Tendered Contract involving a change of bus operator, the incumbent PTO (SBS Transit or SMRT) typically assigns LTA-owned buses to the affected bus routes, facilitating the imminent transfer of ownership to the new operator. For PTOs, this entails the redeployment of PTO-owned buses to other bus services/depots which are still under the Negotiated Contract scheme, and vice-versa for LTA-owned buses, which are transferred from Negotiated Contract regions to the Tendered Contract services slated for transfer. Such bus redeployments were previously observed prior to the start of the Tendered Bulim, Loyang & Seletar Bus Packages.

The transfer of buses from PTO to LTA ownership is elaborated at: Transitioning of Buses to BCM | Land Transport Guru.

Sembawang–Yishun Bus Package Award

In September 2020, Tower Transit was awarded the Bulim & Sembawang-Yishun Bus Packages in a setback to SMRT’s operating presence in Singapore. SMRT would hand over a total of 28 bus services to Tower Transit, comprising 3 bus services which were newly-transferred to the Bulim Bus Package (653, 657, 944), and 25 bus services under the Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package (167, 169, 171, 656, 663, 825, 853/853M, 854, 854e, 855, 856, 857, 858, 859/859A/859B, 882, 883/883M, 963, 963e, 963R, 965, 966, 969, 980, 981, NR1 & NR2). Service 167e was withdrawn in December 2020.

As such, SMRT would only be operating the Woodlands Bus Package & Choa Chu Kang-Bukit Panjang Bus Package after September 2021. This leaves SMRT in ownership of close to 700 single deck buses.

SMRT Buses – Non-Government-owned Bus Fleet as of Jan 2021
Bus Model Registered Registration No.
Mercedes-Benz OC500LE (134 units) Jun 2008–Oct 2009 SMB1H – SMB134H
Mercedes-Benz Citaro (51 units) Mar 2010–Nov 2011 SMB136C, SMB139U – SMB188C
MAN A22 (Euro V) (495 units)
Sep 2011 –Feb 2015 SMB189A – SMB195G, SMB199X, SMB211T, SMB213M, SMB216E, SMB220S, SMB221P & SMB223J – SMB354P,
SMB1301K – SMB1650C

Currently (as of January 2021), SMRT operates about 510 single deck buses based in Gali Batu Zone (Kranji, Bulim, Ulu Pandan Bus Depots & part of Woodlands Bus Park) & Woodlands Zone (Woodlands Bus Depot & part of Woodlands Bus Park). At current levels of bus utilization, it appears that SMRT is left with an excess of roughly 190 single deck buses come late 2021. Conveniently, this figure is conveniently nearly equal to the combined total of SMRT-owned Mercedes-Benz OC500LE and Citaro buses (total: 185 buses).

The LTA is also unlikely to pay availability fees for these buses which the Government does not own. The availability fees cover the depreciation of the buses and are separate from the service fee which LTA pays out for the day-to-day operation of revenue bus services—thus, not being able to earn availability or service fees from its non-utilized buses results in depreciation losses for SMRT.

The possibility of LTA buying over SMRT’s excess buses is also improbable, given that LTA is currently mothballing excess registered buses whilst continuing to take in new bus models. In view of this looming excess of buses, it is plausible that SMRT would seek ways of disposing of its older buses ahead of their statutory lifespan to cut down its financial losses.

Transfer of Buses – COMET

A recent transfer of excess SMRT Buses out of the revenue service fleet happened last year, when twenty MAN A22 (Euro V) buses were retrofitted into dedicated COVID-19 patient transport vehicles, known as COMET MAXI.

Conversion work was undertaken between April & May 2020. The COMET MAXI buses were part of Temasek Foundation’s Stay Prepared initiatives in support of Singapore’s COVID-19 testing efforts. This was conducted in partnership with SMRT Corporation, HOPE Technik, and Sheares Healthcare.

Ownership of these buses was transferred from SMRT Buses to a Temasek subsidiary. As of January 2021, these buses are in storage, with no signs of returning to revenue service.


Gathering Information – Purpose of EOI

The tender notice is put up for SMRT to evaluate the potential actions that they may take to dispose of these buses when there no longer is a need to use them in the provision of public bus services under the Bus Contracting Model. This does not necessarily mean that the buses will be disposed of.

As tender documents are not released publicly, the number of buses listed in the documents and the exact terms of the EOI is unconfirmed.

Expression of Interest – Possibilities

Possible proposals to the Expression of Interest to SMRT Buses might include:

  • Sale/Transfer of ownership to Private Bus Operators
  • Export of vehicles to other countries, such as Thailand, Indonesia, etc.
  • Scrapping of vehicles by Scrap Vehicle Dealers

Retiring public buses have been sold to other countries in the past. In 2010, some of SBS Transit’s retiring Mercedes-Benz O405 buses were sold second-hand to Bangkok, Thailand, where they were converted to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses.


Update

As of 21 January 2021, the tender notice was removed on SMRT website.


See Also:
References

17 thoughts on “SMRT puts up Expression of Interest Notice for Sale of OC500LE and Citaro buses

  • 25 January 2021 at 5:09 PM
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    please smrt stop giving tts buses you are just going to lose a22 c6 e12 a24 a95 and more

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    • 28 January 2021 at 3:50 PM
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      All LTA decision not operator

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  • 25 January 2021 at 12:36 AM
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    One consumes too much fuel due to high cc and another one has poor operational performance due to poor acceleration and both are victims of poor maintainence… Hope they don’t go so soon but it’s not really surprising Tower Transit doesn’t want to take those buses to streamline their fleet to save costs.

    But on the other hand, SMRT can take advantage of these seemingly weak points of these buses and deploy them on suitable routes to suit the buses’ performances, like putting citaros on 961, 904 and 925, and putting OC500LEs on 187 and some Woodlands feeder routes.

    There is also this reality of a few hundred Euro 6 MAN A22s sitting pointlessly in bus depots around Singapore due to overbuying on LTA’s part, which can be used to replace the OC500LEs and citaros due to them having great operational performance with reduced fuel consumption.

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  • 24 January 2021 at 10:16 PM
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    LTA can consider buying all SMRT Citaros and at least batch 2 OCs as they still have a good 5 years left until their end of their statutory lifespan. They can deregister some of the Euro IV KUBs early especially those batch 1 units which are retiring in 2024 and replace them with the OCs and Citaros bought from SMRT. Those buses can be used as a standby for cross-border registration once cross-border travel between MY and SG is resumed and can be deployed exlusively on 160/170. The A22 storage buses can remain status quo and be progressively put on revenue service for new bus services that will be introduced. Else it can be leased to any operators and be used as spare buses.

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    • 25 January 2021 at 10:29 PM
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      The main reason why OCs have a disadvantage against KUB4s on cross-border routes is their lower capacity from the front-facing seats in front of the bus for OC, versus side-facing seats on KUB. Given crappy headways on 160 and 170 not sure whether it’s a good choice to deploy OC on them… but maybe changing the seat arrangement may be in order.

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  • 22 January 2021 at 8:49 PM
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    For the transition TTS only get Citaros from 858,A22 Euro V,8 units of A24,B5LHs(859),C6(825),A95 Euro V(Few units),A95 Euro VI & ADL Enviro500.

    SMRT meanwhile already plan to park majority Bukit Panjang & Gali Batu service @ Woodlands Bus Park with the exception of service 180,920 & 922 thus no need to park @ Ulu Pandan since Kent Ridge & Buona Vista service will park there to make space @ Bukit Batok Depot.Some of Woodlands trunk service will park @ Temporary bus Interchange once Woodlands Regional Interchange is open for operations.As far as i know the plan is

    Gali Batu Zone
    Kranji Depot:67,180,190,307,920,922,927,971,983 & 985.
    Bulim Depot:61,172,188/e & 991.
    Woodlands Bus Park:75,176,184,970,972/M,973,975 & 979.
    Choa Chu Kang Interim Interchange:300,301 & 302.

    Woodlands Zone
    Woodlands Depot:178,187,902,904,925 & 926.
    Woodlands Temporary Interchange:912/M,913/M,960,960e,961,962 & 964.
    Woodlands Regional Ith:900,901/M,903/M,904 & 911.

    Reply
    • 26 January 2021 at 11:16 AM
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      WDL bus park going to be tearing down after mandai handover, so where did you get your info from?

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      • 28 January 2021 at 3:49 PM
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        Where do you get info the bus park will be tear down?Its already extended beyond 2025 so don’t talk crap.You want to see SMRT continue to park at other operators depot is it?

        Reply
  • 22 January 2021 at 7:56 PM
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    Please dont sell them. They are still very good buses and honestly much better than the new man a22 euro 6 single decks.

    Reply

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