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Charging Up the Singapore Bus Scene

Posted on | 28 Apr 2023

Hero Image of electric bus with pantograph charger

Singapore’s public bus fleet has come a long way from a fleet of seven-seaters to the air-conditioned green buses we see today. Let’s find out how our buses evolved over the last decade!

Singapore’s public bus fleet is ramping up in our efforts to manage climate change. By 2030, half of our fleet will be electric and by 2040, all public buses will run on cleaner energy.

It may seem like an ambitious goal, but greener buses have been in the works for years. Here are some milestones of the evolution of all things buses over the years.

Infographic of the History of Buses milestones from 2009 to 2021
2009: The era of LTA involvement begins

2009 marked the year when the Land Transport Authority (LTA) took over as the Centralised Bus Planner, allowing us to take a holistic approach in planning our public transport network.

2016: A turning point for bus sustainability

A new Bus Contracting Model
Under the Bus Contracting Model, LTA retains ownership of all public bus operating assets, and contracts operations to public transport operators through a tendering process. This has given us greater control in the planning and procurement of public buses and enabled us to adjust bus capacity to respond to changes in travel demand and public expectations more quickly. The first and second contracts were awarded to Tower Transit Singapore and Go-Ahead Singapore respectively, bringing foreign operators into Singapore.

An archive image of an articulated bus for Bus Service 184, commonly known as a ‘Bendy Bus'.
An archive image of an articulated bus for Bus Service 184, commonly known as a ‘Bendy Bus'.
2018: A foray into clean energy alternatives

Upgrading to meet Euro 6 standards
Euro 6 standards refer to European emission standards aimed at reducing the emission of nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and particulate matter.

Since January 2018, all diesel vehicles introduced in Singapore, including public buses, must comply with Euro 6 emission standards to improve air quality, and in turn public health. Euro 6 buses were also progressively introduced in our public transport system.

The first hybrid buses hit the road
We deployed 50 hybrid buses on the roads from December 2018 to reduce tailpipe emissions which helped LTA to understand the operational challenges that may arise from hybrid bus technology.

2019: Homing in on sustainability goals

As the conversation about sustainability grew in momentum, LTA committed to a 100% cleaner energy public bus fleet by 2040 as part of our Land Transport Master Plan 2040 (LTMP 2040). Procuring cleaner energy buses such as electric and hybrid buses was identified as one possible way to help Singapore reach this target.

2020: Electric buses take the stage

60 electric buses deployed
Procuring and deploying electric buses from three different suppliers helped LTA to understand the electric buses and charging solutions performance in Singapore’s tropical climate and traffic conditions. LTA was better able to assess and calibrate our approach and requirements for future cleaner energy buses and charging infrastructure. The first single-deck electric bus hit the roads in April 2020.

Image of three electric buses

Powering up with pantograph chargers
40 electric buses deployed in 2020 are charged via overnight plug-in chargers at bus depots. These take around two to four hours for a full charge.

Another 20 electric buses with a three-door design took to the roads from August 2021. They are charged via pantograph chargers at bus interchanges at a higher power rating, compared to plug-in chargers. This allows for faster charging in a shorter period of time during the bus layover between services, so buses only need to charge for 10 to 15 minutes to enable them to move around 48km!

2021: Gearing up on Accessibility and Green Plan goals

Three-door double-deck diesel buses
100 three-door double-deck diesel buses took to the roads from 2021, improving commuter flow with an additional exit door at the rear of the bus. Commuters can now exit at the rear instead of having to make their way to the middle of the bus for a quicker and smoother exit!

Image of three-door double-deck bus
Fun facts to cover some history

What’s a mosquito bus and omnibus?

  • Singapore’s first motor buses were called mosquito buses. They were named for their small size and how they would weave through traffic in search of passengers—like mosquitoes searching for prey.
  • Omnibuses became one of the most popular forms of transport in the 1950s and came in various designs.
An image of a display version of the omnibus.
An image of a display version of the omnibus.

Electric buses are not new to Singapore!

  • From the 1920s to 1960s, public buses ran on electricity. These trolley buses would draw power from overhead wires suspended from trolley poles.
  • Back in the 1970s, 11 bus companies were first consolidated into four companies, and in 1973, were finally merged to form the Singapore Bus Service.
Image of old bus tickets

Evolution of the fare payment system

Today, it’s so easy for us to pay fares with our contactless bank cards, Mastercards, or Visa cards that you might not even remember the days of using EZ-link cards!

Did you know? Bus conductors used to punch a hole on bus tickets (with the bus stop number located on the ticket) whenever a passenger boarded the bus.

Image of Automated Ticket Dispenser and Coin Collection Box
Commuters paid fares through an Automated Ticket Dispenser and Coin Collection Box
Image of Operation Board from the early 1980s

Early 1980s

Until the early 1980s, this Operation Board was used by the Bus Captain to dispense tickets

Image of new Operation Board from late 1980s
Late 1980s
A new Operation Board was developed
Image of Bus Fare Validator
A Bus Fare Validator was introduced. These were used with the magnetic farecards in buses back then.
Who is the Bus Assets Division?
Meet the people driving the bus sustainability scene!
Image of LTA's Bus Assets division

Meet LTA’s Public Transport Group, Bus Assets (BA) division, the people leading the charge to greener bus transport! BA, formed in 2014, is led by Goh Puay San (Director, Bus Systems & Assets) and Ricardo Wang (Deputy Director, Bus Assets).

Image of Director of Bus Systems & Assets
“BA is responsible for the procurement, development and management of the public bus fleet in Singapore to deliver safe, reliable and quality bus services for commuters. We are also active in keeping abreast with the latest technological developments in the bus industry to upgrade the public bus fleet in terms of service quality, commuter experience and safety.”

 — Goh Puay San (Director, Bus Systems & Assets)

What do they do?

Besides working closely with Public Transport Operators (PTOs), part of their work involves visiting bus suppliers’ facilities overseas to learn more about the bus manufacturing process and technology, and working with bus operators to understand technical requirements, operations, and maintenance practices. These experiences help the team to calibrate LTA’s approach and requirements for future procurement of cleaner energy buses.

Share a memorable experience you had overseas. What did you learn and why was it meaningful to you?

“Overseas engagements with operators and suppliers are beneficial as they allow BA to keep updated with the latest technological advancements and also expand the team’s knowledge and capabilities on aspects such as bus operations, maintenance and manufacturing processes. One such visit was the overseas onsite inspection of Yutong electric buses in Zhengzhou, China. It was a great opportunity for the team to share and uplift quality control capabilities (such as chassis and bus body inspections) of suppliers and refine our requirements for future electric bus buys.” — Ricardo Wang (Deputy Director, Bus Assets)

It’s not just about clean energy!

BA’s scope spans the full spectrum of bus improvements and upgrades. In fact, you might have seen some of their work on the road:

Image of Bus Service 143
Creating a united Singapore bus identity

Noticed the eye-catching green livery on public buses? Together with the transition to the new bus operating model, LTA called upon the public in 2016 to choose the new livery colour for public buses. You spoke, and green it was!

Providing ease and convenience for the public

Noting the increased use of technology on the go, the BA division introduced USB ports in 2016 for commuters to charge their devices while riding the bus.

Allowing accessibility for all

Ensuring accessibility and inclusivity on our public buses are part of BA’s work. From 2020, all public buses have been wheelchair accessible.

Graphic of bus trials by BA division

Keep a lookout for more electric buses coming your way, as we continue to make public transport one of the greenest modes of your land transport journeys!

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