ComfortDelGro Bus, the provider of our ISB services, has been operating buses on Sentosa since October 2019, and there are some new buses in town.
Initially, they supplemented the fleet there by supplying a bunch of ex-ISB Scania K230UBs with SC Chivalrous bodies, in plain orange livery. (As an update, these K230UBs had their EDS programmed in late 2020 and can now display Sentosa bus routes.)
The Scanias have still not been painted with any Sentosa branding on the outside, although informational stickers from Sentosa have been applied on the inside.
After starting with the Scanias, CDG apparently took over operations of the rest of the Sentosa fleet.
Prior to the 2019 arrival of the K230UBs, the fleet (owned by Sentosa Development Corporation, or SDC) comprised six 2018 Volvo B8RLEs with Liannex bodywork, with PC7363B and PC7187M shown below.
In addition, there were two old relics: 2006-2007 Volvo B7Rs, with older Liannex bodywork. These buses, RU4127T and RU4290D, were unique because they started life as open-top double-decker buses in a pink colour scheme. In 2018, they were converted to normal single-deckers and painted orange, mixing in with the B8RLE fleet.
Technically, these should be considered B7RLEs because they have a low-entry floor configuration, but for whatever reason they were registered as “B7R Open Top” buses (even after the conversion). They mainly appeared on Bus B, but RU4290D was occasionally seen on Bus C in 2020.
The New Fleet
In late 2020, two interesting new buses arrived under ComfortDelGro Bus to replace the B7Rs: a pair of Volvo B8RLE buses with SC Auto bodywork, registered PC9428K and PC9429H. PC9428K was mostly deployed on the Golf Club Shuttle, which is not open to members of the public, while PC9429H had a slot on Bus B which plies to Sentosa Cove and Palawan Beach.
At first glance, one could be forgiven for confusing this bus with an ISB – they use the same front and rear panel design as our Volvo B9Ls. This design comes from the SC Chivalrous II coach body. Like the B9Ls (and unlike the Scania K230UBs), the “SC Chivalrous” name is not applied on these buses.
Below is a 2015 Volvo B9L for comparison.
Notably, PC9428K and PC9429H are painted up in plain orange with no Sentosa branding on the outside, just like the K230UBs. This suggests that CDG intends to continue differentiating the SDC-purchased fleet of Liannex B8RLEs (with branding) and the CDG fleet of K230UBs and SC B8RLEs.
The most striking feature of the SC B8RLE from the outside would be the windowline, which rises abruptly after the rear door to a coach-like height. In that sense, it is almost copy-pasted from SC’s design for the Scania K230UB. Perhaps this was done to enable the two models under CDG to share parts, since both the B8RLE and K230UB are low-entry vehicles with a raised rear floor. But it makes the bus look like a strange mishmash of the two SC designs.
However, I can’t help but feel it looks a bit forced, as the rear of the SC B8RLE is angular like the B9L as opposed to inheriting the Chivalrous’ curved coach rear that was used by the Scanias. Also, while the windowline slopes diagonally up on the Scania due to a triangle-shaped window, the windowline slope on the B8RLE is actually a black-painted triangle.
Looking at the rear, there’s also a strange grille on the rear left corner, which isn’t present on the right. And instead of a rear EDS, there’s an LTA-compliant “Children Crossing” sign, which looks very out of place on a Sentosa bus (it’s meant for school buses). Overall, I guess the rear isn’t this bus’ best angle.
The interior is currently clean and no Sentosa-specific information has been stuck up in PC9429H yet, allowing the classy interior to shine. The SC B8RLE has a very premium feel, thanks to the wood panelling on the floor and canvas-like material on the sides that is reminiscent of the room walls in upscale hotels – like the W Hotel, where the below photo was taken.
I don’t think this design was specifically for Sentosa, however, as other new SC Auto buses – including Tong Tar’s SC Neustar coach – use the same panelling and walls.
The seats are the same ones used in the ISB Scania K230UB and Volvo B9L; they resemble the Kiel Centra model. There are USB charging ports provided next to every pair of seats, as well as the wheelchair area and even the driver’s seat. These are labelled merely with “5V” and not the current, as with public buses, but each port can supply about 1.5A of charging.
Examining the inside, the similarities with the ISB Volvo B9L become more apparent. The seating layout for the front half of the SC B8RLE is the same as the B9L, with just a pair each of front-facing and rear-facing seats. There is space for two wheelchairs, but only one wheelchair rest unlike the B9L which has two.
The dashboard is the signature SC Auto design, but the SC B8RLE comes with a built-in driver’s door (the one on the B9Ls is retrofitted and connects to the grabpole near the windscreen). There are speakers around the bus designed for playing next-stop announcements and commentary – but unlike the ISB B9L, the EDS is not linked to the announcements and there is no interior next-stop display. Instead, above the windscreen is just a “Bus Stopping” sign. There is, of course, a second “Bus Stopping” sign located in the ceiling in the middle of the bus.
Located above the driver’s seat on PC9429H was a TV screen, apparently intended for displaying ChannelNewsAsia — it was not activated, however, due to issues with the reception. As seen in the first photo, the handgrips seem to get in the way of watching the TV.
Any similarities with the B9L end at the rear door, however. The B9L chassis is fully low-floor with the engine block located at the rear left (on your right if you’re inside facing the back). The B8RLE is a low-entry chassis, however, so the engine is located at the bottom of the rear. There are two steps leading to the raised floor of the rear half — like the Scania K230UB.
The rear half contains 21 seats, adding up to a total of 25 seats for the whole bus. That’s just two more than the B9L with a seating capacity of 23. I like that all the seats in the rear face forward, but I think the rear flooring is just a bit too high – the Liannex-bodied B8RLE has a somewhat lower floor.
On the whole, the interior of the bus has the appearance of a more luxurious ISB. Due to the common parts, many have suspected that this model was a demonstrator for the next generation of ISBs that was rejected for not being fully low-floor. However, as far as I’m informed, that was not the case – or at least, NUS did not request for nor reject the bus. Plus, the luxury interior does seem rather fitting for a tourist attraction like Sentosa, while there is no passenger information system which NUS would have requested. I guess any similarities to the ISB can be attributed to SC Auto simply reusing components for ease of maintenance, or a desire to share parts with the K230UBs now at Sentosa.
Sadly, nobody at Sentosa had driven the B9L before, so I couldn’t get a comparison of how PC9429H felt. It was definitely better than the Scanias though, possessing 320hp compared to their 230. On the trip, PC9429H was able to handle the steep curves around the So Spa and Golf Club area, and both acceleration and braking were smooth. Being a Euro 6 vehicle, this bus was also noticeably quieter than the B9L which is only of Euro 5 standard.
I guess to a regular ISB passenger, the SC Auto B8RLE looks like an updated version of the B9L; however, to Sentosa eyes, the combination of plain orange livery and beige-patterned seats as well as the two-height windowline would make the bus look like a successor to the Scania K230UB. Kudos, then, to the SC Auto designers for making a bus that managed to exemplify the archetype of the free orange shuttle bus.
Even if the rear is still a travesty that should never have happened.