In late 2021, Tong Tar Transport took delivery of two Yutong ZK6126HGA buses. These are wheelchair-accessible citybuses with a fully low-floor interior and Euro 6 engines. I kinda like them.
The ZK6126HGA is not an entirely new model. Older examples can be found running services under Woodlands Transport at Changi Airport, and Advan Bus purchased one orange example for use in Sentosa before it lost the contract to ComfortDelGro.
More recently, Woodlands Transport purchased a new batch that entered service in 2021 on the Mandai shuttle that serves the Singapore Zoo. However, for unknown reasons, two buses from this batch were returned to the dealer Think One Group. These two units, PC9803K and PC9851X, ended up with Tong Tar Transport.
Interestingly, they were painted in the white Tong Tar livery used by older coaches, instead of the “lush green” livery that most buses in the fleet are now being standardised to. I suspect this may have to do with the fact that they were delivered in a plain white coat as ordered by Woodlands Transport.
The buses are fitted with a Hanover EDS, with a controller similar to the one used in many SBS-spec Scania K230UB and Volvo B9TL public buses. However, the EDS units themselves appear to be of a higher density than the public buses, supporting the use of various computer fonts. In NTU, the two buses have their EDS in Arial. This makes them look very similar to the Shenzhen KABYM units on the older Yutong ZK6116H1s, like the one below. The Hanover EDS is, of course, much more camera-friendly.
The interior of the ZK6126HGA is heavily reminiscent of the Yutong E12 and E12DD public buses, albeit without USB charging ports. The seats are the exact same model (Ster NewCity) with blue leather covers, and the flooring uses the familiar public bus pattern first seen on the interior of the Wright-bodied Volvo B9TL. Seating is for 33 passengers, with an interior layout that reminded me of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro. 54 more standees bring the total capacity to 87 passengers.
The extreme rear of the bus features an engine block squashed to the left side of the bus, just like in the Volvo B9L (the model used in our ISB) and Volvo B5LH. This design facilitates a third door at the rear, but only in left-hand traffic countries. It’s not useful in Singapore.
As a result of this design, the rear EDS is on the right instead of the left.
An interesting feature is this grabpole for use by passengers sitting on the seats that face each other. Though I imagine the forward-facing passengers would be launched into it if the bus were to jam brake.
The front section of the bus has significantly more seats than the B9L, which eschews seating for two wheelchair bays – these ZK6126HGAs each have only one. Notice the glossy black plastic dividers that separate the rear-facing seats from the front-facing ones.
A TV is mounted in the bus, but it is not in use on the NTU units. The buses’ Woodlands Transport siblings operating on the Mandai Shuttle appear to use this TV to display promotional materials.
There is no “Bus Stopping” visual indicator for passengers, but the driver has a dashboard light to refer to.
Air-conditioning is through vents in the roof, but unlike the single-deck Yutong E12, there is some adjustability as the vents by the window can be moved.
The ride quality in the bus was quite decent and the bus captains handled the buses smoothly. At 12 metres long, these were a bit harder to manoeuvre than the Yutong ZK6116H1 (11m) or Zhongtong LCK6103G Sunny (10m) but the drivers seemed to find the bus nice to drive.
PC9803K was running on variations of the Red route throughout the day. Before I arrived at NTU in the morning, it was on one of the Red morning expresses, hence the signage placed in the front.
Later, in the middle of the day, PC9803K was deployed on the Lunch Express, where again the EDS was not used.
Finally, from 3pm onwards, PC9803K ran on Campus Red, and the EDS was used. Though I think it’s quite a waste to make the Hanover EDS just display “Campus Red”, when it can actually incorporate a scroll rotating through different bus stops along the route.
PC9851X, on the other hand, was deployed on Campus Rider (Green) which shuttles between Pioneer MRT and the Tan Chin Tuan lecture theatre. Again, the EDS simply displayed “Campus Rider”.
At around 4.55pm, PC9851X made its way to Saraca Hall to begin service on Campus Red.
I noticed that PC9851X was still carrying its temporary registration from China, where it was built. While in transit from the Yutong factory in Zhengzhou to the port in Shanghai, this bus was registered “豫A-N3626”, which corresponds to a Zhengzhou registration.
Based on the details on the registration, the bus was driven to the port some time in October or November 2020. This registration is also where I found out that the licensed capacity is 87.
A sticker left inside the bus indicates that the bus was delivered to Singapore aboard the Dream Orchid, which sailed from Shanghai.
To me, the introduction of these two buses is a welcome change to the NTU services. I definitely think the NTU campus buses have a lot to improve to reach the standard of NUS buses, but the introduction of more high-capacity buses designed for urban transit should help and represents a step in the right direction.
There’s still no passenger information display system, but it seems one can be easily retrofitted. Occasionally, the speakers on both buses would read out “Input one” or “Input three”, which I assume are placeholder announcements. I think one of them is supposed to be “doors closing”. This, of course, needs to be fixed, but it means the bus does have announcement capabilities.
The Yutong ZK6126HGA, in this specification, also presents a worthy competitor in my opinion to the SC Auto-bodied Volvo B9L. Both have comparable capacity, and the Yutong has arguably a more passenger-friendly interior layout.
With a Chinese vehicle, reliability may be more of a concern to many operators guided by more traditional thinking and memories of unreliable Chinese buses, but the reliability of reputable Chinese companies like Yutong has increased in recent years and major components of the bus are still sourced from established suppliers.
And in any case, out of all the free shuttle buses I’ve tried, this bus model’s interior bears the closest resemblance to a public bus!