The buildings of the NUS Bukit Timah Campus have a long and storied history. They were the original site of Raffles College, which evolved into NUS, before it moved into Kent Ridge in 1981. The campus changed hands to NIE and then SMU; in 2005, our Law Faculty and LKYSPP moved back into the Bukit Timah site to reclaim our soil.

Following the move, OED introduced an ISB service in 2006 to link our two campuses in Kent Ridge and Bukit Timah. Since all other services at the time connected passengers within the Kent Ridge Campus, the service was coded as Service BTC or BTC1. Today, it is Service BTC.

In fact, BTC1 referred to the service from KRC to BTC, and BTC2 referred to the service from BTC back to KRC. However, these designations were only shown to the public later on, for reasons I will explain later.

Inception (2006)

NUS introduced Service BTC1 on 24 July 2006. This was the pre-launch routing. It can be seen that originally, Service BTC1 was intended to originate from Kent Vale Terminal. It would travel through southern Kent Ridge Campus, and loop at Bukit Timah Campus by stopping at Student Hub. After it exited, it stopped at public bus stop 41011 at the Children’s Garden where students could transfer to public buses.

The Kent Ridge sector was a novel express concept as it skipped E3A and CP13, both stops that required the bus to make a detour into a stop off the main road.

The long term plan was to change the stopping point to Oei Tiong Ham Building when the driveway in front of it opened, tentatively scheduled for 2007. The following first-generation route map shows the route of Service BTC1.

In August 2006, immediately after the service was launched, a few amendments were made.

Firstly, it was amended to serve CP13 in both directions as well; ironically CP13 was the former home of Law School.

Secondly, the Bukit Timah Campus stop was shifted from Student Hub to House 5 (interim), and then Block B. Note the place where the arrow changes from red to blue on page 2 of the 1st-gen map above.

Thirdly, a temporary bus stop was added at the entrance to Bukit Timah Campus. This bus stop was listed as temporary, but it actually lasted until 2015. All that remains of it now is a small cut-out area of the kerb before the entrance gantry at Bukit Timah Campus, and a small sign reading “NUS Buses Only” that disappeared in 2020.

Around September 2006, the stop at Block B was shifted to Eu Tong Sen Building, while still awaiting the completion of the OTH driveway.

Shortening of route (2007)

Service BTC1 faced severe scheduling issues due to heavy traffic along the way between the two campuses. Remember that the entire journey from Kent Vale to Bukit Timah and back was one trip. In 2007, NUS decided to remove CP13 from the BTC-bound leg (ie. BTC1) and replace it with AS7. They also removed all the stops from the return leg (ie. BTC2). The bus would head for OED (which is now called Museum) and then Kent Vale, thus shortening the trip.

The bus stopped twice at OED, but route boards showed “BTC1” for both directions. Students had to look at the destination on the top of the board, as seen below. (Note that the end point “Opp Block EA” is from a later amendment, in 2010.)

Shortly after, in conjunction with the introduction of Service D as a full-fledged service, NUS introduced the second-generation route maps which reflected this change.

The driveway in front of Oei Tiong Ham Building was unable to be opened in time. Initially scheduled for 1 Jan 2007, it was delayed to March that year. The second page of the 2nd-gen map below illustrates the long loop the bus had to make in the Bukit Timah Campus, as well as the stop at Eu Tong Sen (note where the arrow changes colour).

After the driveway opened, the bus was able to make a much shorter loop, illustrated in the updated second-gen map below. Interestingly, it is now clear that NUS drew arrows over the original map which had the old arrows already on it.

Residential Connectivity (2009)

In January 2009, amendments were made to the Service BTC1 route to enable it to better connect Law and LKYSPP students to their residences.

LKYSPP leased the site of Dunearn Road Hostels in 2009 and opened it up to their students as College Green. In anticipation of this, Service BTC1 was rerouted to pass by and stop at the public bus stop 41029 located outside College Green Hostel, when on its way into the Bukit Timah Campus.

The map was edited to reflect this change. Its second page now showed that the bus entered the campus from Bukit Timah Road instead of Evans Road. However, instead of the actual PDF, OED for whatever reason uploaded something that looked like it was printed out and rescanned.

Also, to provide students with an easier journey to their residences at night, the last two return trips from Bukit Timah would ply via the southern half of Kent Ridge Campus (the reverse of the departing trip) such that students could alight near to Kent Ridge, Sheares, Temasek, Eusoff and Raffles halls. This arrangement continued until around late 2017 or 2018.

Kent Vale closure (2010)

As covered in the articles for B and C, Kent Vale Terminal closed in 2010 for redevelopment of the area. Service BTC1 was amended to layover at Kent Ridge Bus Terminal, but there was no boarding or alighting there. The first stop was The Japanese Primary School and the last stop was EA.

Some time later, with the introduction of Scania K230UBs and electronic destination signage, NUS experimented with designations for the bus route. Initially, KRC to BTC was displayed as “BTC” on the signage and BTC to KRC was displayed as “KRC”. A picture of the KRC signage, by (buses[IN]gapore!), is shown below.

Later on, they settled on BTC1 and BTC2. Route boards produced also reflected this.

Botanic Gardens MRT (2012)

Botanic Gardens MRT Station on the Circle Line opened in 2011. Exit A was constructed near a pair of bus stops: 41029, which was already part of the Service BTC1 route, and 41021.

From 16 April 2012, the Service BTC2 route was edited. The first stopping point after exiting Oei Tiong Ham Building was shifted from 41011 at the Children’s Garden to 41021 outside Botanic Gardens MRT, to provide better connectivity.

Removal Scare (2013)

In early 2013, for various reasons, the OED attempted to curtail the BTC1/BTC2 service. It would only operate during certain peak hours. Outside of those peak hours, a BTC Ferry Service would operate, circling between College Green, BTC and Botanic Gardens MRT.

The change was understandably unpopular with not only students but staff, who needed the service to commute at all times. The NUSSU 34th EXCO worked hard with OED to facilitate consultation with users of Service BTC1/BTC2. In the end, OED understood the concerns and needs of the passengers of the time. The BTC1/BTC2 service was kept throughout the day, and the Ferry service did not materialise.

All this while, the bus route never gained a 3rd-gen route map like the other services. The OED website continued to display the rescanned PDF until early 2013.

Only in 2013 did Service BTC1/BTC2 gain a 3rd-gen route map. This map showed the pair of bus stops outside the Bukit Timah Campus (College Green and Botanic Gardens MRT) marked on the map. Note that the route is named the “BTC ISB Route”.

However, in 2014 OCA moved to a new website which did not immediately show route maps, only stop listings. This is what it looked like for Service BTC1/BTC2.

As mentioned above, the temporary bus stop disappeared from the route in 2015.

Return to Kent Vale (2016)

On 27 June 2016, Service BTC1/BTC2 were finally extended to allow boarding and alighting at Kent Ridge Bus Terminal itself. B and C had been extended back in 2015. Around this time, the electronic signage on buses was updated to reflect the route numbers.

Previously, Volvo B9L buses (introduced 2015) had taken a step backwards. Their EDS only displayed “BTC” when on Service BTC1, with route details “Museum > CLB > FASS > BIZ > PGP > BTC”.

Upon reaching Kent Ridge Campus as Service BTC2, they would either display “PLEASE DO NOT BOARD” in lieu of destination or “OFF SERVICE” altogether, as it was perhaps assumed that students would not board the BTC2 at Museum just to take it one stop to EA. No photographs survive of BTC2 buses on their return trip, so I cannot confirm if there was another destination display that started at BTC, though it is likely.

From 2016 onwards, Volvo buses’ EDS were updated. They would display “KRC>BTC” for BTC1 and “BTC>KRC” for BTC2, similar to D1.

Also, due to difficulties faced by drivers in filtering across 3 lanes to turn right into NUS after serving The Japanese School, NUS made some amendments to the B, C and BTC1 bus routings. These amendments also improved connectivity for the international faculty living in Kent Vale, many of whom taught at Bukit Timah Campus.

Service BTC1 would stop at Kent Vale instead of Japanese School, in a similar amendment to C. This meant that Service BTC1 took over the role of connecting Kent Vale to faculties in the southern half of KRC from Service B, which skipped The Japanese School altogether. Service C continued to play the role of connecting the to the northern half.

These amendments were all reflected in the fourth-generation maps, as below.

This is the first ever map to acknowledge the existence of BTC2. However, I must say that its presentation is rather misleading, as it shows BTC1 as the header for the first page and BTC2 for the second, even though both pages actually show both services. I am following up with the office to see if this can be improved, as it continues into the current map.

Minor Changes (2018)

The routing of Services BTC1 and BTC2 have not changed since 2016, but 2018 saw a few updates to the service.

Firstly, after student feedback, the font size of the “KRC>BTC” and “BTC>KRC” wording on the EDS was increased for better legibility. A similar change took place for D1.

Secondly, following consultation with the NUSSU 40th EXCO (okay, yours truly) OCA uploaded new route maps which combined a stop list with an overlay. Students could now see a map of all the stops superimposed onto a campus map (the 5th generation route map).

The misleading Service BTC1/2 labelling is still an issue. I’ve highlighted this to the office, so when we do the next round of maps, we’ll get this fixed.

Thirdly, as of 2018, the last two Service BTC2 trips no longer travelled via Biz/FASS/Central Forum. They used the same routing for BTC2 all day, due to low demand for direct connections on the last trips.

What next? (2019)

In January 2019, the route of Service BTC2 was amended slightly. Instead of stopping directly at the Botanic Gardens MRT bus stop, the bus would pick up and alight passengers at the pick up/drop off point right before the bus stop, still within walking distance of the MRT station entrance.

FAQs on the amendment can be found here. This amendment was actually hinted at in the route map uploaded in 2018, as it displays the stopping point as the updated one.

As of 2019, there have been many calls recently to reroute Service BTC1/BTC2 into UTown to provide better connectivity between UTown and BTC, as many Law/LKYSPP students live in UTown RCs or UTR.

I believe that this is possible, but there are many constraints on doing so that will need to be addressed very carefully by balancing with the needs of other stakeholders — the existence of whom students themselves might not realise. In a future post, I will evaluate the possibility of such a proposal and examine the pros and cons.

COVID-19 Suspension (2020)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students had to be segregated into zones to minimise the chance of cross-infection across different faculties due to NUS’ connected nature. As such, ISB routes were revised and replaced from 20 July 2020 to facilitate zoning, and all existing services were suspended for AY20/21 Semester 1. The service names were not reused.

During the zoning period, Service DD1/DD2 took up the role of connecting Kent Ridge Campus with Bukit Timah Campus.

Reinstatement (2020)

On 6 December 2020, following the lifting of the zoning policy, the original pre-zoning routes were reinstated. OCA uploaded route information in image form on their website.

Major Amendment (2021)

As part of the New ISB Network introduced from 19 July 2021, the BTC service was rerouted, with several major changes. The new route for Service BTC was announced on 14 June 2021.

The service was simply renamed to “Service BTC”, since there was no longer a double stop at Museum.

Layovers for Service BTC were shifted to Oei Tiong Ham Building, like what was done during the zoning era with DD1/DD2. Buses would exit the Bukit Timah Campus and call at Botanic Gardens MRT as before. However, instead of heading to Museum, they would ply the northern half of the Kent Ridge Campus. Buses would call at Kent Ridge MRT, LT 27, UHall, Opp UHC, UTown and Raffles Hall before heading to Kent Vale to rejoin the original route towards PGP and back to Bukit Timah. Service BTC would no longer ply EA or the Kent Ridge Bus Terminal (now served by A1 and A2).

This amendment improved connectivity between the Bukit Timah Campus and the entirety of the Kent Ridge Campus; the lack of a layover within the Kent Ridge Campus meant that passengers from Bukit Timah could access the entire Kent Ridge Campus without needing to make a transfer. It also meant that after ten years, UTown finally had a direct connection to Bukit Timah Campus.

A new sixth-generation route map was introduced for the service, featuring the route overlaid on a black-and-white map of the Kent Ridge Campus and Bukit Timah Campus. The route was fully coloured orange, with no distinction between BTC1 and BTC2.

As a result of this amendment which lengthened each journey, the frequency of the bus had to be reduced to 30 minutes at peak hours and 45 minutes at off-peak hours. During evening peak hours, however, it was supplemented by the newly-introduced Service L which helped to shuttle passengers out to Botanic Gardens MRT.

Further Reading

All Episodes

Note: This article was rushed out; I originally spent two weeks on it but lost the draft in a freak accident, which prompted my move to WordPress. This was rewritten from scratch. My sincerest apologies if I left anything out.

16 thoughts on “History of Bus Routes Ep 5: BTC

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