Mercedes-Benz O405 – Fond Farewell

The Mercedes-Benz O405 Hispano was the workhorse in its heyday in the mid-1990s. Back in the days of Trans Island Bus Services (TIBS), 73 O405s were introduced into the fleet. The last remaining O405 was deregistered in September 2016. We pay homage to this classic bus model that has charmed many passengers and bus fans alike.

Senior Bus Captain (BC) Tan Boon Thian has been with SMRT since 1993 and he used to drive Service 960 from Woodlands to Marina Centre. Senior BC Tan drove the O405 for 15 years, long enough for him to recognise the bus by the noise the engine makes. “The buses were air-conditioned and were very stable,” he explained in Mandarin, adding that the O405 buses were much more comfortable compared to the old Nissan buses. “But the modern buses today are definitely more comfortable for the passengers.”

The O405 did have its drawbacks, despite being a very popular bus. “You have to have a certain body type to drive this bus. Too short and you can’t reach the pedal.” BC Tan also pointed to the steering wheel and then to his belly, “Too much here and you won’t fit in the seat”. Buses today have steering wheels that can be adjusted to the BC’s preference. While the O405 was still a very good bus, it was starting to show its age. The needs of the passengers were also changing. The O405 is not a wheelchair accessible bus and has been a training bus in recent years.

Senior Engineering Supervisor Mohamed Rafi Bin Syed Masood has been with SMRT since 2006 and has worked on O405 model servicing. From an automotive mechanic’s perspective, O405 is reliable because Auto Service has a strong maintenance regime. The new bus system is completely different from O405 and technicians are required to pick up more skills. The Preventive Maintenance team that services the buses are made up of five groups: Air Conditioning, Body, Undercarriage, Driveline and Vehicle Electrician.

Rafi can also identify the O405 just by the sound of the engine. “These buses are like my children. I have spent so many years with them. Of course I can tell how they sound like.” When comparing the O405 to the newer buses, Rafi felt that the old buses had their own character. “When you drive an old bus, it feels like driving a bus. Driving one of the newer buses feels like driving a car.” He was referring to how the older buses were slower to pick up while the new buses speed up quite easily.

Rafi said that he will miss the O405, “Old is Gold,” he said with a smile.

SMRT Buses lends a hand to Go-Ahead Singapore

SMRT Buses is helping Go-Ahead Singapore cope with a shortage of drivers needed to run bus services in Loyang.

News of this development has surfaced a term which bus enthusiasts may already know. It’s called Interlining, which is the practice of having bus captains drive multiple routes. Interlining requires the driver to know the road network, road conditions and bus passenger travel patterns that are peculiar to each route he or she is assigned to drive. For instance, a route that includes schools may see a surge in passengers at various times of the day when students end their classes.

Mr Tan Kian Heong, Managing Director SMRT Buses and Road Services, explained why SMRT is stepping in to help another public transport operator, “SMRT Buses will support Go-Ahead Singapore to ensure that commuter journeys are not affected. Ten SMRT bus captains will be attached to Go-Ahead for two months to help with their current staffing needs.

Mr Tan also shed light on what interlining entails, “Interlining is often used to achieve an efficient scheduling solution. However, SMRT Buses is selective when applying interlining into our schedule because an excessively interlined arrangement would require bus captains to be familiar with multiple routes, which is more demanding than driving a single route. It may also have an impact on their work-rest cycle. For our interlined services, SMRT Buses will ensure that all bus captains receive route familiarisation training and cater for sufficient rest so that they can carry out their duties well. The welfare of our bus captains is important to us in maintaining high service standards.”

SMRT Mobility Features

Millions of commuters travel on our transportation network daily. Lot’s of us know the stations and interchanges so well that we breeze through them on auto-pilot, with eyes glued to our phones.  Admit it, you and I are guilty of that once in a while. We’ve walked the same route for years and it has become second nature to us.

However, for passengers with disabilities, the daily commute can be a constant challenge.

For someone on a wheelchair, something as small as the 75mm gap between the train platform and the train can be an obstacle to overcome.

There are many accessibility features on both trains and bus networks to help narrow the metaphorical gap that passengers with disabilities experience daily.

 

MRT Train Stations

SMRT Barrier Free Entrance

Barrier-free entrances and exits

In SMRT’s early days, passengers on wheelchairs would have trouble entering our stations as there were only staircases and escalators to reach the concourse levels. Today, all stations will have at least one entrance that passengers on wheelchairs can use.

SMRT Tactile Paving

Tactile paving

The bars and bumps on the ground are known as tactile paving. They are there for the visually impaired, forming a path leading from platform to important places in the station, such as the fare gates. Have you also noticed that the tactile paving always leads to the wider fare gate?

SMRT Larger fare gates

Wider fare gates

Wider fare gates were introduced to allow wheelchairs to pass, as well as bulky items. These gates are bidirectional, making it more convenient for the passenger as they do not need to approach a Station Staff to help them turn the gate to a certain direction.

SMRT Wheelchair entrance notice

Wheelchair indicators and wheelchair-accessible train carriages

At the platform, passengers in wheelchairs should look out for the wheelchair indicators on the platform screen door or platform floor. These indicators reflect where the wheelchair spaces are on a wheelchair-accessible train carriage. There are two such spaces per train. Some trains also have the grab bar closest to the train doors removed, allowing passengers with wheelchairs or strollers to enter the train easily.

SMRT Visual Indicator

Visual indicators

There are also visual indicators for the hearing impaired. The prominent flashing red lights above the platform screen doors indicate when the train doors are closing.

 

Bus Interchanges

SMRT wheelchair accessible bus boarding berth

Special boarding and alighting berths

Special boarding berths at some interchanges were modified for passengers in wheelchairs. Wheelchair bound passengers who wish to board a certain service number can state so via a console at these berths. The next bus will swing by the berth to pick them up.

SMRT Wheelchair accessible bus

Wheelchair-accessible buses

Passengers in wheelchairs indicate their intention to board a wheelchair accessible bus by pressing the blue button next to the exit doors, triggering a special alert to the Bus Captain. The Bus Captain will then deploy the ramp and help the passenger on board the bus.

SMRT Woodlands Interchange Braille Handrails

Braille guidance on handrails

At the new Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange, there are “signs” in Braille on the handrails to help the visually impaired locate waiting areas.

 

 

Customer Satisfaction Survey

Dear Commuters,

We are pleased to announce that SMRT is participating in the 2016 Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS) for CoMET and Nova[1] and International Bus Benchmarking Group (IBBG)[2].

We want to thank you in advance for taking part in the global trains and buses benchmarking surveys which will start from 4th April to 1st May 2016. The two surveys will help measure your satisfaction levels towards our train and bus services.

Your information and your responses will remain confidential and will not be used for any other purpose.

Thank you for completing our surveys.Note :
1) CoMET and Nova is the World’s Metro Benchmarking Group. The research is carried out by the Railway and Transport Strategy Centre at the Imperial College London.
2) IBBG is the comprehensive programme of international benchmarking for urban bus operations. The research is carried out by the Railway and Transport Strategy Centre at the Imperial College London.

CoMet

CoMET and Nova

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to take part in the CoMet and Nova survey.

 

IBBG

IBBG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to take part in the International Bus Benchmarking Group survey.

Woodlands Bus Interchange – New Features!

The Woodlands Bus Interchange has been serving the residents of the area since 1996. The interchange will be given a fresh breath of life as an Integrated Transport Hub, due to be ready in 2019. In the meantime, the all new Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange will be serving the residents in this area.

Read more

Official Launch of JurongHealth Mobility Park, sponsored by SMRT​

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek Speech at Mobility Park Launch
When JurongHealth approached SMRT in 2013 with their idea to create a first of its kind mobility park that included public transportation features, we immediately said yes. It sits well with our vision of “Moving People, Enhancing Lives”. SMRT’s experience transporting millions daily by rail and road transport can greatly contribute to such a park that brings rehabilitative care for patients to a whole new level. We are proud of this partnership with JurongHealth over the past three years.
SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek at Mobility Park Launch
We contributed a life-sized train, bus and taxi to replicate real-life conditions so that people with mobility needs can regain their confidence in taking public transport. Many of us take this daily routine for granted. But for those who have suffered some disability or illness, this seemingly simple activity can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Training and sharing sessions will be organised so that staff can assist patients and commuters to make the necessary adjustments and feel more comfortable when using our trains, buses and taxis.

​SMRT Customer Experience Innovation Conference

JurongEastGreeter

1. Welcome to SMRT’s first Customer Experience Innovation Conference – CXI. We are pleased that you can all join us, and I would like to welcome our guests, strategic partners and distinguished panel of speakers, for taking time to be with us this afternoon.

2. Today’s CXI conference is one of many initiatives that we embarked on as part of a Service Excellence campaign that was started back in 2013. It is important for us to understand why we did so, and why we continue to place significant management emphasis on driving and sustaining the organization-wide effort to bring about a high quality in customer experience.

3. The period of 2010-2013 was a particularly rough patch in SMRT’s 29 year history. Although it may seem to some like just the other day, it has been 4-5 years since. If you recall, a series of troubling incidents during these recent times – from vandalism, to major train disruptions and nagging reliability issues, to an illegal bus strike – Singapore’s first strike in 26 years – had severely hurt our reputation, and shaken public confidence. Meanwhile, ridership continued to grow and operational demands intensified despite an aging network urgently in need of renewal and upgrade. Investor sentiments were undermined as profits plunged, and internally, staff morale was at a low with high staff turnover in many quarters.

4. Against such a formidable backdrop of challenges, where and how do we start to get people on board, our programmes on track, and the company on top again? We needed to regain the trust and confidence of all our stakeholders. And there are many: our staff who commit to achieving our company’s mission and goals; our commuters whom we carry on their journey safely each and every day (all 1 billion passenger journeys last year); the authorities who entrust us with the delivery of a high quality of public transport services; and our shareholders who invest with us in anticipation of steady annual dividends.

5. Not all these interests are aligned, as you can expect. But all, whether external or internal, are customers in one form or another whose experience with us is important. We decided therefore to place our leadership focus squarely on people – and set out on a Service Excellence campaign to deliver the kind of customer experience that we would all be proud of. We made Service Excellence one of 6 core values – the S in SMRTnI. We set Customer Experience as one of the 5 key strategic thrusts that would guide the prioritization of management effort across the company. It formed part of a set of key performance measures that would be factored in our collective management performance incentives. More than just a desired outcome, we turned this into a platform to shape work culture and engage the hearts and minds of all 9000 of our staff.

6. Changing culture takes time and consistency of leadership effort. It needs to involve every single individual in the organisation. Often results are seen only in the long run, and one can easily be distracted by immediate issues and expediencies. We knew it was a journey that might never finish but that did not deter us from making a bold start. With collective buy-in from rank and file, we embarked on Service Excellence with a passion – to unite everyone with a common mindset and purpose – to build trust and bring on smiles every day, and with everyone who journeys with us.

7. This was the critical catalyst for an organization-wide change effort to align all staff in operations, maintenance, administration, commercial business, quality assurance, and front-counter activities – toward excellence in their service wherever they were in the company. We wanted to foster a climate where people can feel empowered to initiate and innovate in their Service Excellence efforts towards positive customer experience. .

8. In these past 3 years, I’m proud to say that we have made significant progress. Our Organizational Climate survey conducted by Towers Watson last year showed that 9 in 10 employees are proud to be in SMRT, and 86% are sustainably engaged – a measure of how engaged, enabled and energised they feel about themselves in the company. On a global scale, that puts SMRT as Best in Class, especially for companies undergoing transformation and transition. In business output, the bus business turned around to make a small operating profit after many consecutive quarters of losses. And based on the international metric for train reliability based on delays lasting more than 5 minutes for every 100,000 km, we have that number down from 1.8 in 2011 to 0.71 in Dec 2015, the best performance in the past decade despite the ageing network. .

SMRT Organisational Climate Survey Results

9. But it’s the ground-up stories of people who have gone the extra mile that move and inspire us. One example is Chief Bus Captain, Sim Boon Hwa, who in December last year was approached by a school-girl who thought she had lost her wallet onboard the bus service 188. He was supposed to start his duty in a few minutes, but seeing how sad and anxious the girl was, he did a quick search on the service 188 buses that were parked at the interchange. Unable to find the wallet, he asked her to follow him on his bus service 855 to make a police report at Queenstown Police Station along the route. Before she alighted, he gave her $50 in case she needed money to pay for her trip home. The next day, the girl called to inform that she had found the wallet in her friend’s car, and to arrange to return the $50. But Mr Sim declined and told her that the $50 would be his Christmas present to her.

SMRT Bus Captain Sim Boon Hwa

10. Another example is our Assistant Station Manager, Nurulhuda. The passenger lift at City Hall MRT Station was undergoing maintenance until 8 am that morning. Knowing that her regular passenger who is wheelchair-bound would face difficulties when she exits the station, she took the initiative to call her and advised her to delay her journey to avoid the inconvenience. While the gesture may have been simple, having that attention to detail and personal touch with each and every commuter is truly Service Excellence at its best.

11. With many other deeds like these, SMRT has won numerous national-level Service Excellence awards over the past few years – including the prestigious Singapore Service Excellence Medallion, the Singapore Experience Awards for Customer Service under the Transport industry and Contact Centre Association of Singapore annual awards.

SMRT Contact Centre Awards

12. We are determined to continue to serve and excel, innovating in improving the experience of all our customers. This afternoon, we look forward to learning and sharing with experts and leaders in Customer Experience and Innovation. Innovation is as much an idea or act, as it is a state of mind. We can apply this in end-to-end service delivery in a commuter’s journey, from before he or she even steps into the network, with way-finding, passenger information services and physical signages, to consumer amenities in the retail shops and advertising spaces as he makes his way through the transit network, to every single commuter touch-point that make for a more enjoyable journey. I wish all of you a meaningful afternoon of reflection and inspiration as we find new ways to innovate the customer experience.

Providing Outstanding Customer Service

More than two million passenger trips are made on the SMRT rail network every day. Every journey is important to us. As hardware is improved, our commitment to providing quality heartware is no less important.

All NSEWL MRT stations are manned during service hours. Passengers at all our NSEWL stations will find staff close at hand to help from the first train till the last. There are many examples of how SMRT staff have gone the extra mile to help passengers in need. Our station staff receive many notes of thanks for extending a helping hand to passengers who have lost their way along our network or needed help finding lost items.

Providing outstanding customer service_cropped

We constantly improve customer service touch points in our network to better serve our passengers. Since 2014, we have launched programmes such as these to enhance customer service: Care Stickers to identify passengers who would appreciate a seat, Priority Queues at elevators for passengers with needs and Charging Points for passengers requiring a quick charge of their mobile devices. We have received very good feedback for all these programmes.

We continue to expand these initiatives with Escalator Safety announcements, Care Zones which allow station staff to keep an eye on and respond quickly to passengers who need help, and SNAP-REP (Snap and Report) which allows passengers to give quick comments and share pictures via WhatsApp. We value the feedback by our commuters in improving the service quality and travel experience.

SMRT Buses on “Have fun with the Tans” on YouTube

YouTube Channel “Have fun with the Tans” is a series created by the Tans sharing their experiences with their son, Trevor. They go all around Singapore having all sorts of adventures. From visiting Universal Studios Singapore to checking out the Central Fire Station.

In their latest video, Trevor learns more about buses by taking a ride on SMRT Service 972 around Bukit Panjang.

In the video, Mrs Tan points out different features and rules on the ADL Enviro500 Double Decker bus such as the location of the fire extinguisher and emergency hammer.

Trevors Bus Experience Safety EquipmentShe also reminded Trevor that standing on the upper deck and stairs is not allowed, for his safety.

Trevors Bus Experience No Standing

They also brought Trevor on board Wheelchair Accessible Bus Service 922.

Trevors Bus Experience WAB

But the most important lesson is at the end of the video. Wonder what that is? Check out the full video below!

SMRT Bus Wash

Have you ever wondered when do our buses go for a “shower”?

After service hours every day, our buses get to enjoy their ‘Jacuzzi’ bath (also known as Automated Bus Wash) to ensure that their exterior surface are clean before they go to sleep.

SMRT Bus Wash Interior Wipe

Similar to a car wash, a bus enters the automated bus washing plant where the rotating brushes will spin back and forth to wash and polish the outer surface. The next morning when the buses ‘wake up’, our cleaning crew will sweep the bus interior to ensure that they are clean before they set off and pick you up!
How thorough is the wash? Are you curious? Check out the video to see how it’s done!