1983: Singapore Gets a New Public Transportation Service

April 3, 1983

A new bus service began operations in the Republic of Singapore. Trans-Island Bus Services (TIBS) had been incorporated the previous year. The company’s founder was entrepreneur Ng Ser Miang, who was born in China in 1949 but has lived in Singapore for most of his life. (Over the years, Ng has also represented Singapore in worldwide organizational efforts for the Olympic Games and served as Singapore’s ambassador to both Norway and Hungary.)

Ng established TIBS in response to a 1981 announcement on behalf of Singapore’s government by Ong Teng Chung, serving at the time as both minister for culture (since renamed the minister for communications and information) and minister for labor (since renamed the minister for manpower). Ong, who went on to serve as Singapore’s fifth president from 1993 to 1999, stated in his announcement that the government would grant licenses to companies willing and able to compete with Singapore Bus Service (now called SBS Transit).

Singapore Bus Service had been handling all of the island country’s bus operations since 1973. Ong made clear in his announcement why the government was now welcoming new companies to likewise provide bus services in Singapore. He asserted, “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.”

With Ng assuming the role of managing director, TIBS launched its operations as Singapore’s newest bus service with approximately 40 buses for two routes. Initially, the company was run in large part on a stopgap basis. Bus repairs and maintenance were performed in makeshift sheds, for example, and the washing of those vehicles had to be done manually. All of that changed in 1986 after TIBS moved into well-furnished headquarters in the planning area and residential town of Ang Mo Kio in Singapore’s North-East Region. These headquarters included not only improved administrative and engineering facilities but also a refueling station and fully automated bus-washing system. By 1998, TIBS had more than 600 buses for a total of 40 routes.

TIBS became a wholly-owned subsidiary of SMRT Corporation, a multi-modal operator in Singapore, in 2001. After helping to oversee this transition process, Ng retired from the company that he had founded. As part of its parent corporation’s rebranding program, TIBS was renamed SMRT Buses in 2004. SMRT Buses now has a fleet of approximately 1,450 buses for use on 95 routes.

For more information on SMRT Buses (formerly Trans-Island Bus Services), please check out  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMRT_Buses

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