How To Improve Transport System In Singapore.

What Is A Transport System?

Transport within Singapore is mainly land-based. Many parts of Singapore are accessible by road, including islands such as Sentosa and Jurong Island. The other major form of transportation within Singapore is rail: the Mass Rapid Transit which runs the length and width of Singapore, and the Light Rail Transit which runs within a few neighbourhoods. The main island of Singapore is connected to the other islands by ferryboat services.

Singapore also has many links to the rest of the world. There are two bridges which link Singapore to Malaysia – the Causeway, and the Second Link. TheSingapore Changi Airport is a major aviation hub in Asia, and Singapore is a major transshipment port. According to the study conducted by London consulting firm Credo, Singapore has one of the most cost-efficient public transport networks in the world.

History Of Bus Transport

When Singapore first gained independence in 1965, the public transport system was inadequate to cope with the population, while the buses were old and slow. Furthermore, the system was beleaguered with frequent problems such as poor management and substandard services and quality.

The main bus operator was the Singapore Traction Company (STC), plying routes in the city area. Apart from that, there were many small and individual Chinese private bus companies, each plying a small part of the rural and fringe areas of the island, with only a few routes each. Therefore, a simple journey from the East to the West of the island could involve several bus transfers, and could last a few hours aboard noisy and rickety buses.

As Singapore Traction Company had a 30-year monopoly and had no direct competition, its services were usually substandard, while the small Chinese bus companies also had a shortage of resources and funds. Moreover, many bus companies had labour problems. There were quite a few cases of labour unrest. In the late 1950s, the situation deteriorated. Militant bus workers, manipulated by communist-controlled unions, resorted to strikes in a demand for better work conditions and pay. These work stoppages plagued the entire bus system into chaos.

A famous bus strike was the Hock Lee bus riots on May 12, 1955, where workers from the Hock Lee Amalgamated Bus Company began to go on strike. They were members of the Singapore Bus Workers' Union (SBWU) and were protesting against bad working conditions, long working hours and a low pay. Students from the Chinese Middle schools even came to join and support the strikers. The situation was so bad that in 1955, the Chinese bus companies were hit by a total of 57 strikes. In 1956, the 'Great STC Strike' lasted 146 days. The strikers crippled the country's transport system. The chaotic conditions usually left the commuters in a lurch.

It was in the early 1970s that government stepped in to reorganize the bus system. Many small bus companies were amalgamated into three larger bus companies, namely the Amalgamated Bus Company, Associated Bus Services, and the United Bus. They were grouped into three regional sectors. The STC continued its monopoly on the central area of Singapore.

Notwithstanding the reorganization, bus services still did not improve much. There were still frequent breakdowns, overcrowded buses, and irregular fare and route structures. During this time, the protectionism of the STC by the government was also removed. The STC could not cope with this new environment and closed down its operations due to large financial losses.

In 1973, The three main bus companies were merged into a one single organization. The new company formed from this merger was theSingapore Bus Service (the predecessor of SBS Transit), which came into operation in November 1973. It was hoped that this would create economies of scale and ultimately improve bus services.

The government mooted the idea of a second bus company in the early 1980s. The idea was to provide some degree of competition to SBS. Therefore, Trans-Island Bus Services (TIBS) was formed on 31 May 1982, as the second major public bus operator. Trans-Island started operations on 3 April 1983.

Ong Teng Cheong, the then Minister for Communications, remarked that "Each company will act as a natural impetus to enhance the performance and efficiency of the other in the spirit of healthy competition and in the process help bring about a better level of service."

In August 1994, the government announced the transfer of 17 SBS services to Trans-Island bus services. This was to help TIBS in its early years.

In 1999, the government announced the final transfer of bus services to Trans-Island bus services in exchange of SBS who had won the whole right of North East Line.

In 2001, Singapore bus service changed its name to SBS Transit Limited. This was to reflect its status as a multi-modal transport operator, as it had won the tender to operate the new North East Line and the Punggol LRT Line and Sengkang LRT Line.

In late 2001, Trans-Island became a subsidiary of the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (SMRT). Trans-Island Bus Service was renamed as SMRT Buses Ltd on 10 May 2004.

Plans are made to convert bus interchanges into being air-conditioned (Integrated Transport Hubs (ITHs)) as opposed to the current open-air. So far, eleven bus interchanges have been converted.


They include:

  • Toa Payoh (2002)
  • Sengkang (2003)
  • Ang Mo Kio (2007)
  • Boon Lay (2009)
  • Serangoon (2011)
  • Clementi (2011)
  • Bedok (2014)
  • Joo Koon (2015)
  • Bukit Panjang (2017)
  • Yishun (2019)
  • Woodlands (2019)

On 23 April 2013, the Land Transport Authority announced that a new Bulim Bus Depot will be built by the authority itself. It will be located off Jurong West Avenue 2. It will be the first depot that LTA is developing and funding, as part of the review of the enhanced structural assistance that Government is providing the bus industry announced in Committee of Supply (COS) 2012. The depot is intended forSMRT Buses Ltd, to accommodate the additional buses that it is bringing in over the next few years. The operator’s existing bus depots and bus park are reaching full capacity, and the new facility is necessary to support the higher number of buses as the overall bus capacity is progressively increased under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP).


Subsequently announced by LTA on 29 May 2013, a new SBS Transit bus depot will be developed, the Loyang Bus Depot located off Loyang Avenue.


As announced on 21 May 2014, the Land Transport Authority announced that there will be a transition to government contracts model, which will attract competitiveness. All the Bus Services Enhancement Programme buses will be consolidated into the three new depots beginning 2016. Cross-carriaged SBS Transit and SMRT will be bidding for all operations.

In 2016, the government will adopt a new contracting model with the Land Transport Authority determining the bus services to be provided and the service standards, and bus operators tendering for the right to operate these services. Fare revenue will be retained by the government who will also retain ownership of all buses and bus related infrastructure.


Bus contracting will be implemented in phases over several years. Services in Singapore will be bundled into twelve packages with about 300-500 buses each. Initially, three packages will be tendered out for five years, and can be extended by another two years on performance criteria being met. The three packages will comprise about 20% of existing buses. The other nine bus packages, will continue to be operated by the existing operators as negotiated contracts, for durations of about five years. After these negotiated contracts expire, more bus services will be gradually tendered out.


On 3 October 2014, the Land Transport Authority called for tenders to operate the Bulim package of 26 routes based on Bukit Batok Bus Interchange, Clementi Bus Interchangeand Jurong East Bus Interchange.


Eleven parties including Busways,


Go-Ahead Group,


Keolis, RATP Group, SBS Transit, SMRT, Transit Systems


and Transdev lodged bids.


The contract was awarded to Transit Systems trading as Tower Transit Singapore in May 2015.




On 25 November 2014, the Land Transport Authority announced expansion works for Sengkang Bus Interchange and Tampines Bus Interchange. The expansion consist of additional parking bays for another 12 buses each to support the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP), passenger boarding and alighting facilities, a concourse area, offices, a staff lounge and a canteen. It scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2016.


In April 2015, the Land Transport Authority called for tenders to operate 25 routes based on Changi Airport Bus Terminal, Changi Village Bus Terminal, Pasir Ris Bus Interchange, and Punggol Bus Interchange out of Loyang Bus Depot as part of its new contracting model.


Busways, Go-Ahead Group, Keolis, RATP Group/Transdev, SBS Transit, SMRT Buses, Tian Tan Shipping/Kumho Construction and Woodlands Transport lodged bids.


In November 2015, the Land Transport Authority awarded Go-Ahead the contract withGo-Ahead Singapore to commence operations in quarter 3 of 2016.




Recent Train Disruptions

Date Affected line Where What happened

Jan 19, 2014 Bukit Panjang LRT Line Fajar and Bangkit A power fault occurred between the two stations at 9.19am, causing a train to stop. Another train was sent to push the stricken train to Bangkit LRT station, where the affected passengers got off. Normal services resumed at 10.05am.

Jan 11, 2014North-South MRT LineKranji and Yew TeeTrain services along the line were disrupted for about 1½ hours, following a power outage likely caused by a cable fault, said SMRT. At least one train stalled between the two stations, forcing commuters to disembark and walk on the tracks to Kranji. Train service resumed at about 2.05pm.

Dec 27, 2013Downtown MRT LineNot specifiedService was disrupted by a power trip at night. SBS Transit said service was down at about 9pm due to a power fault. Fifty passengers on one train were made to alight at Bayfront station. Full service resumed at 10.10pm.

Dec 22, 2013Downtown MRT LineBayfrontA train fault disrupted service for 15 minutes on the line’s opening day at around noon, as thousands of people took the line for the first time. Services between Bugis and Chinatown were delayed.

Dec 18, 2013Circle MRT Lineone-northA damaged cable at one-north station caused a power failure at 11.21pm that disrupted services at 23 of the 28 Circle Line stations and affected about 2,900 commuters. About 300 passengers from three trains had to disembark and walk along the tracks to the nearest stations, Caldecott and Tai Seng. Power resumed only at 4am, several hours after train services ended at 12.30am.