ECP vs MRT: Who Wins? • Tanjong Pagar to Changi Airport with Scheme B Bus Service 621 and Go-Ahead Bus Service 36

Scheme B Bus Services

Unknown to many, there is a small cluster of private bus routes operating during weekday peak periods as supplementary buses to the existing bus network. There are currently 4 such Scheme B Bus Services operated by private bus companies, of which, one of them, Scheme B Bus Service 621, has a sigfinicant long sector on the MCE and ECP.

One fine weekday evening, I decided to put the highway buses up for a challenge to see if they could beat the MRT on long distances, at least for a few times a week.

MRT Travel Time

In comparison, the MRT ride from Tanjong Pagar to Changi Airport is estimated to take 56 minutes based on Google Maps. With such a benchmark, it’s time to put the highway buses to the test!

Scheme B Bus Service 621
Tanjong Pagar MRT Station to Mandarin Gardens

Scheme B Bus Service 621’s PM Peak route plies from Anson Road (Hub Synergy Pt) to Bedok Reservoir Road (Opp Blk 646) via Anson Road, Robinson Road, Raffles Quay, Shenton Way, MCE (Express), ECP (Express), Siglap Road, Marine Parade Road, Bedok South Avenue 1, Bedok South Road, New Upper Changi Road, Bedok North Avenue 3, and Bedok Reservoir Road.

For the purpose of this self-proclaimed challenge against the MRT, I will only be riding the main highway sector of Scheme B Bus Service 621.

Despite being an official mode of public transport, Scheme B bus information is hard to find online from official sources. Neither LTA, PTC, nor even private bus operators themselves provide information about their services. Even the bus stop does not carry the service number (except for 640).

For a fair challenge, I started my journey from Bus Stop 03223 – Tanjong Pagar Stn Exit C.

At 6.02pm, the first Scheme B Bus Service 621 PM Peak bus pulled in to the bus stop – well, not really. Surprisingly, the bus did not stop at the bus stop itself but a few meters before the shelter.

Thus marking the start of my race to Changi Airport against the MRT.

The Scheme B Bus Service 621 flat fare costs S$2.30 per person regardless of distance or destination, payable by cash or EZ-Link card only. NETS FlashPay, concession cards (including Adult ones), contactless bank cards or any other modes of payment are not accepted. As with regular public transport in Singapore, change is not provided by the driver if paying by cash.

The overall interior of Bedok Transport’s PH8811S, formerly SMRT Buses Yutong ZK6126HGC Demonstrator (SMB135E).

Taking my seat on the back row. Gets rather hot behind though – exactly how I remembered my first joyride on SMB135E on 854 from Bedok to Yishun.

Scheme B Bus Service 621 serves the whole length of Robinson Road.

Turning on to Finlayson Green to turn back down on Raffles Quay and Shenton Way.

Turning on to Raffles Quay.

Bus Stop 03059 One Raffles Quay is the last stop in the CBD before Scheme B Bus Service 621 heads on to the highway sector.

Turning to the MCE on Straits Boulevard after Singapore Conference Hall.

Heading on to the MCE.

Heading into the tunnel.

Heading under the waters of Marina Bay.

Heading out of the MCE tunnel.

Merging on to the ECP.

The furthest that regular public buses (ie. 36 and 48) travelling on the ECP would leave the highway sector would be at Exit 11 Tanjong Katong Road.

Scheme B Bus Service 621 continues on all the way to Exit 8A Siglap Road where it exits to Mandarin Gardens.

Mandarin Gardens is the first bus stop after leaving the MCE and ECP highway sector.

I arrived at Mandarin Gardens at 6.30pm, making the journey time from Tanjong Pagar MRT to Mandarin Gardens 28 minutes.

Scheme B Bus Service 621 continues on to the other Bedok regions via Marine Parade Road, Bedok South Avenue 1, Bedok South Road, New Upper Changi Road, Bedok North Avenue 3, and Bedok Reservoir Road.

Go-Ahead Bus Service 36
Mandarin Gardens to Changi Airport Terminal 3

Mandarin Gardens is also the point where Go-Ahead Bus Service 36 leaves the Marine Parade sector to head on to the ECP to Changi Airport, making it the perfect transfer point a couple of times a weekday in the evening for a long ECP bus ride.

Bus Stop 93199 used to be called Opp Mandarin Gardens, but has now been renamed to Bef Seaside Residences in line with the upcoming Seaside Residences condominium.

I waited just 2 minutes for the 36 to arrive – looking good for the challenge.

At 6.32pm, I set off to Changi Airport on Go-Ahead Bus Service 36.

The Go-Ahead Bus Service 36 fare from Bus Stop 93199 – Bef Seaside Residences to Bus Stop 95109 – Changi Airport PTB3 costs S$1.48 for adults at a distance of 9.9km. The fare is payable by EZ-Link, NETS FlashPay, Mastercard® or Visa contactless credit and debit cards, or NETS Tap contactless bank cards. For cash, it would cost S$2.30. As with regular public transport in Singapore, change is not provided by the driver if paying by cash.

Heading on the ECP once again all the way till the end.

Oh, how I wished.

I dropped off at Changi Airport Terminal 3 which is the first passenger terminal building served by public buses, and is also where the MRT station was anyway, for a fair comparison.

I tapped off the bus at 6.54pm, making this a journey of 22 minutes.

Heading into the terminal building.

A shot of the Flight Information Display System (FIDS) display to confirm a timestamp of 6.54pm.

Beating the MRT from Tanjong Pagar to Changi Airport 

End-to-end from Tanjong Pagar to Changi Airport, it was a journey time inclusive of transfer of 52 minutes. Based on Google Maps’ estimation of the MRT journey to take 56 minutes, I’m happy to report that YES, I have beaten the MRT by using this unique bus combination!

Now for the reality – Scheme B Bus Service 621 only operates on this direction on weekday evenings, which means, at most (if not all) times of the day, you are actually not able to get this transfer combination, and the fastest way by bus on the ECP would still be getting the 36 from Orchard or Suntec area to Changi Airport anyway – which is not very competitive time-wise when trying to compete with the MRT. But if you’re interested in getting a forward-facing seat throughout the journey, that might still be your best option then.

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