You might have taken a public bus, but have you visited a bus depot?
Have you wondered who the bus captain is talking to when on the go? Why do the doors of the bus open and shut continuously? Why does the bus seem to take a pause at the bus-stop for a while? And how does a bus get cleaned daily?
All these questions were answered at our bus depot tour organised as part of Singapore Heritage Fest, made possible by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), SBS Transit and other partners.
Bus Depot Tour: A Journey Behind the Scenes
Our journey started at LTA’s Singapore Mobility Gallery where we hopped on a specially chartered double decker SBS Transit bus.
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Leaving the premises at Hampshire Road, the bus headed towards the West via a scenic route that took us past Marina Bay and along the southern coast of Singapore.
What is at Ulu Pandan Bus Depot?
Westies would have seen the new bus depot along Toh Guan Road, just beside the Ulu Pandan Park Connector, where buses terminate and bus drivers take a break. We got a insiders’ tour of the bus depot!
The Ulu Pandan Bus Depot has capacity for 470 buses. It serves both local buses and those that head across the Causeway.
As part of the tour, we got a look at various parts of the bus depot including the staff canteen, bus captain despatch counter, operations control centre, training areas and classrooms, workshop and bus wash bay.
Operations Control Centre: The Brain of the Bus Depot
The Operations Control Centre or OCC is the brains of the bus services. If you have ever noticed the bus captain speaking to someone while driving, it would probably be to the depot OCC.
There are a total of seven OCCs in Singapore and one of them is sited at Ulu Pandan Bus Depot.
The OCC is the first point of contact whenever there are accidents, emergencies or any other incidences that warrants the attention of the team.
A map shows where all the buses are on the road. Sometimes bus captains are asked to overtake buses or slow down to regulate the intervals of bus arrivals. That is why you might find buses waiting at the bus stop longer than usual to ensure that it would not be too close to the buses plying the same route.
Perhaps you may have noticed the doors of the bus open and shut, wondering if it was malfunctioning. This is just one way of reactivating the GPS signalling system so that OCC is kept updated on the location of the bus on the road.
It must be exhausting to drive a bus along a route continuously for two hours.
Some Malaysian bus captains even have to travel across the causeway from their homes to Singapore for their shifts.
To allow adequate rest for optimal focus on the roads, the bus depot has sleeping areas for bus captains to rest.
Sustainability Efforts at the Bus Depot
Ulu Pandan Bus Depot is also the first bus depot in Singapore to be equipped with a solar panel system. This generates clean energy for its electricity demands.
There are over 2,100 solar panels on the roofs of the bus depot, roughly the size of half a football field. The energy generated can power up to 175 units of four-room HDB for a year and only 70% is utilised by depot operations.
In addition, NEWater is used in the depot for the under carriage washing systems and manual washing bays and automatic bus washing machines.
Training Centre, Workshop and Bus Washing Bays
The depot is also home to the Bus Technical Specialist Certification Centre, where the technical team gets trained. Important components and training aids are all used as part of the training regime.
We got to see tyres and what they were made of, engines, air-con systems and even see how automatic doors work.
Next was a visit to the workshop where buses get repaired. Here, buses are stripped bare down to the chassis for training purposes.
We could even get a close up look at the bottom of the bus to see all its parts: the engine, battery, air-conditioning, steering and gas tanks.
For the final segments of the tour, we were shown how refuelling of buses was done and how buses are washed daily!
Going through the bus washing bay on a double decker bus was a highlight of the tour. Watching the gigantic brushes and water splashing on the screens while seated in the bus was an unforgettable experience.
Joining a Bus Depot Tours
We loved how insightful the behind-the-scenes tours at the bus depot was! We learnt how hard the bus captains and the technicians work to keep bus services running smoothly and had a greater appreciation for the efforts that go towards keeping buses on the road.
For more bus depot tours, check the Singapore Mobility Gallery’s EventBrite site.