In September 2021, the Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package was progressively taken over by Tower Transit. This article documents the gradual handover of buses and bus services in the periods leading up to and during the transition.
The transfer of bus services took place across three tranches as detailed below; each separated by two weeks. This gradual transition process allowed the incoming operator to build up its operational competency in stages while minimising any potential effects on commuters.
|Former Term (PT213)||Current Term (PT217B)|
|Bus Operator||SMRT Buses||Tower Transit Singapore|
|Contract Term||Negotiated Contract:
01 Sep 2016 – 02 Oct 2021 (extended by 1 year from 2020)
|Tendered Package 1st Term:
05 Sep 2021 – 2026
|Bus Services||110, 167, 169, 171, 652, 656, 670, 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 (28 bus routes)
||167, 169, 171, 656, 663, 670, 825, 853/853M, 854, 854e, 855, 856, 857, 858, 859/859A/859B, 882, 883/883M, 963, 963e, 963R, 965, 966, 969, 980, 981, N1 & N2 (27 bus routes)|
|Bus Depot||Ang Mo Kio Bus Depot||Mandai Bus Depot|
|Bus Interchanges||Sembawang Bus Interchange, Yishun Bus Interchange, Lorong 1 Geylang Bus Terminal|
Note: Service 663 operated by Tower Transit under Bulim Bus Package, to be transferred to Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package in Sep 2021.Brief background of BCM (Click to expand)
Under the Bus Contracting Model (BCM), bus routes are bundled into bus packages, consisting of a single bus depot, several bus interchanges/terminals, 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.
The successful tenderer operates these bus routes and collects fares on behalf of LTA, while maintaining the associated bus infrastructure (buses & onboard equipment, depots, interchanges & terminals). In return, the operator is awarded an operating fee from LTA, and potential bonuses via an incentive framework.
The Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package package comprised bus services mainly originating from Sembawang Bus Interchange, Yishun Bus Interchange, and Woodlands Bus Interchange, with a handful originating at Yio Chu Kang, Resorts World Sentosa, and Marina Centre.
Having secured the tender, Tower Transit progressively took over 26 existing bus services operated by SMRT Buses between 5 September and 3 October 2021. Bus operations for the Tendered Package would be based out of the new Mandai Bus Depot, located off Mandai Road and integrated with Mandai Train Depot.
Similar to previous route packages, bus services under the Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package were transferred to Tower Transit in stages, starting from Sunday, 5 September 2021.
|Tranche||Implementation Date||Bus Services||No of Routes|
|1||5 Sep 2021||171, 663*, 670, 853/853M, 854, 854e, 855, 856 & 857||9|
|2||19 Sep 2021||169, 858, 963, 963e, 963*, 965, 966 & 969
|3||3 Oct 2021||167, 656, 825, 859/859A/859B, 882, 883/883M, 980, 981, N1 & N2
No operator change for City Direct 663 as it is currently operated by Tower Transit (transfer from Bulim Bus Package to Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package)
Change In Operator
Services that were part of the Negotiated Contract term for the Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package but not part of the Tendered Package term would be transferred to other bus packages.
|Date||Operator||Bus Package||Bus Services||No of Routes|
|1 Sep 2021||SMRT Buses||Woodlands||110||1|
|6 Sep 2021||SBS Transit||Seletar||652||1|
Redeployment of Buses
On 19 March 2021, a Mercedes-Benz OC500LE, Volvo B5LH and MAN A24 (1 unit each) were transferred from SMRT Buses to Tower Transit to facilitate training and familiarisation of Bus Captains and Technicians leading up to the takeover.
|Bus Registration||Bus Model||Transferred From|
|– March 2021 Transfers –|
|SG6105E||MAN A95 (Euro 6)||LTA Storage|
|SG1821D – SG1833U||MAN A22 (Euro 6)||LTA Storage|
|SG1809R – SG1811H, SG1834S – SG1836L & SG1861M||MAN A22 (Euro 6)||LTA Storage|
|SMB8015R||MAN A24||SMRT Buses|
|SMB9L||Mercedes-Benz OC500LE||SMRT Buses|
|SG3016Z||Volvo B5LH||SMRT Buses|
|SG1837J – SG1839D, SG1845K – SG1847E, SG1859X, SG1860R, SG1862K – SG1878R||MAN A22 (Euro 6)||LTA Storage|
|– May 2021 Transfers –|
|SG1027E||Mercedes-Benz Citaro||LTA Storage|
|– Sep 2021 Transfers –|
|(Tranche 1 – 5 Sep 2021)
SMB3C, SMB7S, SMB10G, SMB23U, SMB24S, SMB26L, SMB33R, SMB34M, SMB43L – SMB49X, SMB51M, SMB52K, SMB60L – SMB64B & SMB78L
|Mercedes-Benz OC500LE||SMRT Buses|
|SMB224G, SMB230M, SMB231K, SMB252A, SMB253Y, SMB1301K, SMB1310J, SMB1325S, SMB1326P, SMB1330B, SMB1331Z, SMB1333T, SMB1334R SMB1337H – SMB1339C, SMB1346G – SMB1349Z, SMB1356C & SMB1357A||MAN A22 (Euro V)||SMRT Buses|
|SMB3520G, SMB3522B – SMB3526R, SMB3529H, SG5704H & SG5705E||Alexander Dennis Enviro500||SMRT Buses|
|SMB5888H, SMB5891Y, SMB5892U, SMB5894P – SMB5900E, SMB5902A – SMB5904U, SG5740C – SG5744S, SG5746L, SG5749D – SG5754M, SG5757E, SG5758C, SG5762P – SG5764J, SG5766D, SG5777Y, SG5787T, SG5790H – SG5795U, SG5797P – SG5799J, SG5820E – SG5822A, SG5854H, SG5855E, SG5860P – SG5862J, SG5864D – SG5869R||MAN A95 (Euro V)||SMRT Buses|
|SG5943J, SG5946B, SG6006H, SG6012P, SG6013L, SG6018Z, SG6019X, SG6023H, SG6024E, SG6027Y, SG6029S, SG6037T, SG6055R – SG6058H, SG6065L, SG6066J & SG6071T||MAN A95 (Euro 6)||SMRT Buses|
|(Tranche 2 – 19 Sep 2021)|
|SMB20C, SMB25P, SMB35K, SMB50R, SMB93S, SMB95L – SMB97G, SMB100E – SMB102A, SMB106P, SMB113T, SMB118E, SMB120Y & SMB129Z – SMB132M||Mercedes-Benz OC500LE||SMRT Buses|
|SMB223J, SMB225D – SMB229T, SMB250E, SMB257L, SMB280T – SMB282M, SMB301S – SMB305G, SMB307B, SMB308Z, SMB330H – SMB332C, SMB335U, SMB341B, SMB353S, SMB354P, SMB1358Y, SMB1360P – SMB1379L, SMB1381D, SMB1391A, SMB1412Z – SMB1415R, SMB1429B, SMB1522P & SMB1540L – SMB1542G||MAN A22 (Euro V)||SMRT Buses|
|SMB3519L, SMB3530C, SMB3531A, SMB3533U, SMB3536L – SMB3539D, SMB3541X, SMB3542T, SMB3550U, SMB3554J – SMB3556D, SMB3560R, SMB3561M, SMB3567Y, SMB3568U, SMB3571J, SMB3573B, SMB3574B, SMB3585U, SMB3586S, SMB3589J – SMB3591B, SMB3594T, SMB3596M, SMB3603B, SMB3608M, SMB3609K, SMB3612A, SMB5002Y, SMB5009D, SMB5027B, SMB5034E – SMB5036A, SMB5038U, SMB5043D, SMB5044B, SMB5049M, SMB5058L, SMB5060D, SMB5062Z, SMB5064T, SMB5070A – SMB5073S, SMB5075L, SMB5076J, SMB5078D, SMB5082R – SMB5085H, SG5702M, SG5703K, SG5706C & SG5709U – SG5713G||Alexander Dennis Enviro500||SMRT Buses|
|SMB5893S, SG5783D – SG5786X, SG5788R, SG5789M, SG5805A, SG5850T, SG5877S – SG5879L & SG5902C||MAN A95 (Euro V)||SMRT Buses|
|SG5941P, SG5942L, SG5948X, SG5952H, SG5963B – SG5965X, SG5972A – SG5974U, SG5977L, SG5980B, SG5984R, SG5986K, SG6031J, SG6067G, SG6069B, SG6070X, SG6079Y – SG6081P, SG6096Y, SG6097U, SG6109U, SG6154M & SG6155K||MAN A95 (Euro 6)||SMRT Buses|
|SMB8025L, SMB8030X, SMB8031T & SMB8036E – SMB8038A||MAN A24||SMRT Buses|
|– Oct 2021 Transfers –|
|SG6247D||MAN A95 (Euro 6)||LTA Storage|
|(Tranche 3 – 3 Oct 2021)|
|PC7991M, PC8561P, PC8656A & PC8669M||BYD C6||SMRT Buses|
|SMB8P, SMB27J, SMB29D, SMB32T & SMB94P||Mercedes-Benz OC500LE||SMRT Buses|
|SMB232H, SMB1302H, SMB1329G, SMB1332X, SMB1335M, SMB1336K, SMB1421Y, SMB1423S, SMB1424P, SMB1426J, SMB1430X, SMB1434K, SMB1440S, SMB1444G, SMB1448X, SMB1478J, SMB1479G, SMB1483T, SMB1484R, SMB1488E, SMB1490Y, SMB1492S, SMB1495J, SMB1505P, SMB1506L, SMB1515K, SMB1517E, SMB1523L, SMB1526D – SMB1529X, SMB1531M, SMB1532K, SMB1543D, SMB1544B, SMB1558L, SMB1560D – SMB1562Z, SMB1565R, SMB1567K, SMB1568H, SMB1589Y, SMB1590S & SMB1608B||MAN A22 (Euro V)||SMRT Buses|
|SG3000T, SG3021H, SG3024A, SG3028P,
SG3030G – SG3039H, SG3044S & SG3045P
|Volvo B5LH||SMRT Buses|
|SMB5045Z, SMB5063X, SMB5074P, SMB5079B & SMB5081T||Alexander Dennis Enviro500||SMRT Buses|
|SMB5901C, SG5859U, SG5875Y, SG5876U & SG5886R||MAN A95 (Euro V)||SMRT Buses|
|SG6022K, SG6119R, SG6132B – SG6136R, SG6138K, SG6145P, SG6152T, SG6153R, SG6172K & SG6173H||MAN A95 (Euro 6)||SMRT Buses|
Buses slated for operator transfer (i.e. SMRT Buses to Tower Transit) had their SMRT Buses logos removed in the days prior to the handover. This was likely done to speed up the bus handover process on the transition day, where the new operator (Tower Transit) would only have a few hours at night to inspect and take over these buses. SMRT buses without operator logos were thus a common sight in the days leading up to the transition.
The bulk of the bus transfers between operators took place on the night prior to the start of each tranche, although some buses were transferred in the days before the handover night. As for buses deployed on revenue service on the final day before transfer, they often carried a “Mandai Depot PT217B” paper indicating this.
Most buses that were slated
Tower Transit stated in various Instagram stories that they took over:
- 140 buses for Tranche 1
- 177 buses for Tranche 2
- 94 buses for Tranche 3
Interim use of MAN A22 (Euro 6) storage buses
Tower Transit is the first operator to deploy the following 45 MAN A22 (Euro 6) buses:
- [Registered Dec 2018]: SG1821D – SG1835P
- [Registered Apr 2020]: SG1839D, SG1847E, SG1859X, SG1860R, SG1862K – SG1878R
These buses were part of the LTA storage fleet and never deployed on revenue service prior to their registration dates. Under Tower Transit, these buses were deployed not only on revenue service, but also on employee shuttle services, and on route familarisation training duties. Most of these buses did not feature Tower Transit logos.
Revenue service for these buses began on Monday, 6 September 2021, one day after the commencement of Tranche 1. Seven units were spotted on the roads, with most deployed to Bus Service 858. More would make their revenue service debut over the course of September 2021, and a total of 15 units were spotted to have entered revenue service. However, these deployments would be short-lived, as most were taken out of service prior to the commencement of Tranche 3 in Oct 2021.
The transient nature of these deployments and the lack of operator logos on these buses indicate that these MAN A22 (Euro 6) deployments were only intended to be temporary, possibly just to support employee training and the rollout of the first two tranches. Several of these buses were returned back to LTA in October 2021, reinforcing this view.
While there are no technical restrictions on putting these buses on revenue service, their abrupt absence from revenue service likely indicates their return to the LTA storage fleet, wherein excess buses are registered yet sit disused in bus depots. More details are enclosed in the LTA storage fleet article.
The 15 buses spotted on revenue service are:
- SG1809R, SG1810K, SG1822B, SG1823Z, SG1825T, SG1830C, SG1836L, SG1845K, SG1846H, SG1847E, SG1859X, SG1861M, SG1866A, SG1868U & SG1870L.
One-off appearances on revenue service after Tranche 3 (Oct 2021):
- 18 Oct: SG1836L on Service 857
Mandai Bus Depot
Back in October 2020, Tower Transit began outfitting works at the new Mandai Bus Depot in preparation for the commencement of its term of the Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package.
Route Familiarisation Training
In late June 2021, route familarisation training was ramped up for Tower Transit Bus Captains in preparation for service commencement from September 2021.
Buses commonly deployed for route familiaraisation are: SMB9L, SG3016Z, SG1825T, SG1836L & SG6105E.
Employee Shuttle – Mandai Bus Depot
To facilitate training of affected SMRT Buses employees whom would be transferred to Tower Transit, a shuttle bus service is deployed between Sembawang Vista and Mandai Bus Depot.
SMRT Buses – Internal Re-deployments
In the months leading up to the September 2021 transition date, SMRT Buses shuffled buses between its depots in preparation for the handover of buses to Tower Transit.
The gradual process of internal redeployments leaves the Mandai Zone with a stable fleet of buses that will be immediately transferred to Tower Transit on the transition date.
Additional SG-Plated MAN A22 (Euro V & Euro 6) buses in storage (formerly operated by SMRT Buses) were leased again to SMRT Buses and deployed to Mandai Zone in April 2021.
|Month||Transfer In (to Mandai Zone)||Transfer Out (from Mandai Zone)|
|March 2021||SG1706D SG1707B SG1708Z SG1712K SG1713H SG1717Y SG1718U SG1719S SG1724B SG1725Z
[MAN A22 Euro V]
|SMB139U SMB142J SMB143G SMB144D SMB148T SMB153C SMB154A SMB155Y SMB157S SMB158P
|March 2021||SG1726X SG1727T SG1734Y SG1735U SG1736S SG1737P SG1740D SG1741B SG1742Z
[MAN A22 Euro V]
|SMB149R SMB159L SMB160G SMB161D SMB162B SMB163Z SMB164X SMB167M SMB168K SMB188C
|April 2021||SG1703L SG1704J SG1705G SG1709X SG1710R SG1711M SG1714E SG1715C SG1716A SG1722G
[MAN A22 Euro V]
|SMB140P SMB145B SMB146Z SMB147X SMB150K SMB151H SMB152E SMB156U SMB165T SMB166R
|April 2021||SG1738L SG1743X SG1744T SG1745R SG1746M
[MAN A22 Euro V] SG1752U SG1753S SG1754P SG1755L SG1808T SG1851S SG1852P
[MAN A22 Euro 6]
|SMB169H SMB170C SMB171A SMB172Y SMB173U SMB174S SMB175P SMB176L SMB177J
|April 2021||SMB224G SMB230M SMB231K SMB232H SMB252A SMB253Y
[MAN A22 Euro V] SG1723D SG1728R SG1729M SG1730H SG1739J
[MAN A22 Euro V]
|SMB178G SMB179D SMB180Z SMB181X SMB182T SMB184M SMB185K SMB186H SMB187E
Tower Transit – Internal Re-deployments
In September 2021, several buses were transferred from Bulim Depot to Mandai Depot for the Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package.
- SMB3501L – SMB3506Z
Alexander Dennis Enviro500
SMB3505B & SMB3506Z were later re-deployed back to Bulim Bus Depot and swapped for 2 new units of MAN A95 (Euro 6) buses (SG6231Z & SG6232X) in October 2021.
Bus Service Changes
Under Tower Transit, departure timings for Express 854e from Yishun were adjusted from 6 Sep 2021.
Service guides uploaded by Tower Transit for Service 856 does not include the Short Trip Service 856A which ends at Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
This service was later confirmed to have been silently withdrawn, with the removal of the service information from the Land Transport Authority website.
Short Trip Service 883A, which only operates during the eve of Public Holidays and other special days when bus and train services are extended at Sembawang, would be withdrawn on 3 Oct 2021.
Service guides uploaded by Tower Transit for Service 883 does not include this short trip service.
Double-deck buses are deployed daily for these services operated by Tower Transit:
- Service 171
- Service 853 / 853M
- Service 855
Volvo B5LH buses are regularly deployed on Services 853 & 853M by Tower Transit, in addition to Services 859, 859A & 859B.
More double-deck trips are operated on weekdays for the following services under Tower Transit:
- Service 167
- Service 882
- Service 883
- Service 980
Tower Transit Exhibition Booth
In late August 2021, an exhibition booth was done up by Tower Transit at Yishun Public Library. The booth later shifted to Sembawang Public Library till 21 October 2021.
Change of Anchor Operator at Yishun
In October 2021, 3 buses were fitted with an advertisement wrap (Hello (Finally) From Tower Transit Singapore) which operates the Sembawang-Yishun Bus Package.
Gallery: Tower Transit Route Familarisation Buses
- Gearing up for 2021: Things to expect ahead of the Sembawang–Yishun Bus Package transition
- Tower Transit awarded Bulim and Sembawang-Yishun Bus Packages
- Bulim and Sembawang-Yishun Bus Packages put up for tender