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PUBLIC buses with three doors would not only take longer to deliver but also cost significantly more if the Land Transport Authority (LTA) were to introduce them in response to the Public Transport Council's (PTC) Advisory Report.
Public buses currently have one door in front and another in the middle, between the two axles. But the LTA is looking at buses with a third door at the end, behind the rear axle, and two staircases for improved commuter flow and to encourage commuters to move to the rear of the bus.
The move follows some of the recommendations made in the PTC's Advisory Report, which aims to enhance the commuting experience by making bus and train travel more comfortable and accessible for all.
While three-door variants are commonplace in Europe, virtually all of them are left-hand-drive (LHD) models and cannot be easily converted for Singapore's right-hand-drive (RHD) market.
This is because the bus engine is located in the rear and the entire chassis has to be re-configured before the doors can be moved to the left side of the vehicle.
The senior executive of a bus supplier said: "We have buses with three doors but not in right-hand-drive. In fact, this option is not available in the market."
But he added that even though this configuration does not yet exist, current models can be re-engineered to meet the requirement.
"It is not impossible but it will involve significant cost," he said.
The senior executive declined to be named as he said that the LTA could be calling for a tender soon for both single- and double-decker buses with three doors, and he did not want to jeopardise his prospects.
There are currently more than 5,500 public buses in Singapore, operated by former incumbents SBS Transit and SMRT Buses, as well as newcomers Tower Transit and Go-Ahead.
Of these, SBS Transit runs about two-thirds and SMRT a quarter. Tower Transit and Go-Ahead together operate the remaining 10 per cent or so for now.
The transport operators use mainly the Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Scania and Man brands, and one of these is understood to be specially developing a three-door RHD bus for the Singapore market but only in single-deck trim.
Soon Chow Corp, Singapore's oldest bus manufacturer, recently built a three-door double-decker for UK bus body supplier Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL).
The mock-up does not have an engine and will be displayed at this month's Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition.
The managing director of a bus chassis manufacturer said converting a three-door LHD bus to RHD "is difficult and involves a lot of work".
He said: "The development fees are high and because of Singapore's small volume, the cost of each bus will also be high."