Archive for April, 2013

Private buses/coaches 2005 – 2012

April 24, 2013

Continue with the tradition of this blog, it is the time of the year again to take a look at the private buses/coaches in the year 2005 to 2012.
The total number of private buses used in the percentage calculation in the below chart is 1577 units.
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China buses include Kinglong, Higer, Golden Dragon, Zonda, Yutong, Zhongtong, Sunlong, Foton, Ankai
Japan include Hino, Isuzu, Fuso, Nissan
Sweden include Volvo, Scania
Germany include Mercedes Benz, MAN
Others : only Daewoo
Small buses are excluded : Rosa, Coaster, Hiace, 515CD, Urvan, etc…
The above data are based on my daily observations, they are not taken from any official sources.
The observed registration of buses fell from a high of 334 in 2011 down to 102. A cut in the number of COE at the end of 2011 took a heavy toll on the number of new registration.
Same as for previous few preceding years, Chinese made buses dominates the market for private bus and coach market.
New player is Ankai. With the withdrawal of Nissan UD from the bus market, Tan Chong Motor, the local distributor for Nissan, was left without any bus brand in their stable of vehicle products. Ankai is their replacement. The buses began arriving last year and the first Ankai bus was registered this year.
Kinglong, Higer and Golden Dragon maintained strong presence. Zonda dropped out of the market completely The brand first came on the market in 2008, introducing four models 6105HC, 6106HG, 6129HG and 6899H :
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The last Zonda bus registered was in 2011. Many of the buses and coaches suffered from quality defects, especially damaged to the side windows.

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All the door windows dropped off, temporary held in place using tapes. The second last window also dropped off and was replaced with non tinted glass.
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Another desperate attempt to hold the glass in place.

Rust on body panels and leaking roofs were other problems.
Sunlong, Foton and Zhongtong filled in some of the demand vacated by Zonda.
Percentage market share of buses from Sweden and Germany maintain at more or less the same level as previous years.
Scania continue to sell more buses than Isuzu.
Scania and MAN dominates for the European makes. Mercedes Benz is still absent from the private bus/coach market.

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Memories of bus rides – First ride on an “aircon” bus

April 17, 2013

Among the first batch of Isuzu BR351P buses purchased by STC in 1962, two of them were air conditioned. They were registered as STC 1 and 2. These two were the first aircon transit bus in Singapore. Two more aircon buses followed not long after and they were Mitsubishi Fuso R710s. The Isuzus were bodied by Kawasaki Heavy Industries whilst the Fusos were bodied by Kureha in Japan. After the trial period, these aircon buses were used mainly for charter purposes.
These four aircon buses were passed on to Associated Bus Service after STC went into liquidation. By then, the buses were used as normal non aircon route buses. I didn’t have the opportunity to ride on the Fuso R710s but I did have on a few occassions rode on the aircon Isuzu BR351Ps. The aircon Isuzu BR351Ps were different in layout compared to the rest of STC’s Isuzu buses. STC1 and 2 have only one door located on the centre. The emergency door on the off side is located at the rear instead of the centre. Whilst the general layout of the interior are the same as other buses, the difference is that the seats in the aircon bus were all forward facing, mounted one step above the floor level, unlike the regular Isuzu buses, the seats over the front the rear wheel arches are aisle facing.

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Aircon bus STC2

The Fuso R710s had two door layout, similar to the non aircon Isuzu buses. They also had one extra window bay, making it longer than the usual Isuzus with a corresponding additional seating for four passengers. The aircon is mounted under the floor in the mid section between the entrance and exit doors. At the front of the roof, two long horizontal radio antenna were mounted on both sides. The actual purpose of these antennae were not known. These roof mounted horizontal antennae were common on Japanese tour coaches in the 1960s.
At least one of the air-con bus survived till the formation of SBS in 1973. It is one of the Fuso R710. Whether the bus is still operational or not is not known. When the government team of officials (GTO) who took over SBS in the desperate attempt to prevent the company from going bust, this lone ex-STC Fuso R710 turned up in the 1974 inventory list of SBS buses. Technically, SBS did have air-con bus since its early days!

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STC138, one of the pair of aircon Fuso R710

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Berliet PGK205

April 10, 2013

In 1975 the French bus and truck manufacturer introduced its first Berliet PGK205 demonstrator bus to the public. This bus was the only kind in the entire history of SBS and SBS Transit. The bus was built by Soon Chow at its MacPherson assembly plant. The design was a departure from the standard Soon Chow bus design of that time although it used many of the parts common to other buses. It was the only bus in SBS fleet to have four leaves folding doors for both the entry and exit doors. The front destination box was raised higher than a normal bus. The nickname of 747 jumbo bus was given to it by bus enthusiasts back then. Four ventrilation ports were mounted just below the windscreen.

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The interior layout was also first of its kind. It had vertical bars behind each seat for passengers to hold on. It has 10 instead of 6 ventrilation ports on the roof. Two fans mounted on the roof at the rear. 15 single seats along the right, 6 along the left at the rear and 6 twin seats on the front left half of the bus. The seats were hard fiberglass bucket type. The bus can carry a total of 95 passengers, 62 standing and 33 sitting. Normal bus carries a maximum of 76 passengers, standing and sitting.
French vehicles are left hand drive. The Berliet PGK205s were modified to right hand drive with the dashboard and steering moved to the right side. The gear remains on the left hand side and as a result, a long gear stick was installed such that it bends over the engine cover to the right side. Changing of gears needs some getting use to :

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An interior view of the first Berliet :

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After the demonstrator, the other 18 were built to a more conventional style by Soon Chow. The exit door for these 18 units was move all the way back to the back. 28 single fiberglass seats were installed on both sides leaving a very wide centre aisle which can accommodate 56 standees. This is an advertisement of one of the 18 units :

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The last unit entered service much later. This last one was also unique in the exit door is positioned in the centre. Capacity is 41 seats and 32 standees. It was also equipped with Allison automatic gearbox.

The buses were deployed most of the time on route 20 from Bedok to Ghim Moh. Towards the end of its life span, the entire fleet of Berliets were transferred to work on route 153 from Bukit Merah to Upper Serangoon Road.

Acknowledgement : bus photos from National Archives Singapore

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Take a seat

April 3, 2013

In the past, bus companies employ roving conductors to collect fares :

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In 1975, SBS started a trial using seated conductors. Instead of the conductor moving about to collect fares, the bus was modified to provide a seat for the conductor. Passengers taking the bus will have to queue up to buy the ticket before proceeding to take a seat. The route chosen was 151 from Toa Payoh to South Canal Road. The buses involved are Soon Chow bodied Ford R192s. The third row seats on the left are removed, a metal table with a bell button and a chair was installed facing the aisle :

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The trial was not successful and was abandoned after a few months. The problem were the passengers all bunch up at the front while waiting to pay the fare, collect the money changes and tickets making boarding time very much longer.

Acknowledgement : photos from National Archives Singapore

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