Bid for 18-route Bukit Merah package is its first overseas foray
China firm's One Belt, One Road, one Singapore bus bid Apart from public buses, Shenzhen Bus Group's business covers taxis, limousine and car rental services, bus advertising services, property development and management, new energy, big data and financing. PHOTO: SHENZHEN BUS GROUP

State-owned Shenzhen Bus Group (SZBG) sees its bid for Singapore's fourth bus contract - its maiden overseas foray - as part of China's One Belt, One Road initiative.

Explaining its decision to venture overseas, SZBG deputy general manager Joe Ma told The Straits Times that "the time is right for the company to seize the initiative and build on its clear successes in its home market".

"In so doing, SZBG is also acting to support China's Belt and Road Initiative, whereby enterprises, particularly those providing infrastructure and services, are encouraged to venture into the global market," he said.

The Singapore bus market "is considered one of the best and most prestigious in the world", he said.

The fourth bus package is relatively small with 18 routes. The previous one had 26. It drew five other bidders - SBS Transit, SMRT, Tower Transit, Go-Ahead and Jiaoyun Group-Travel GSH consortium.

Mr Ma said SZBG is the largest public transport operator in Shenzhen, in south-eastern China. It has an all-electric fleet of some 5,700, making it the world's biggest electric bus operator.

With Hong Kong's Kowloon Motor Bus as a stakeholder, SZBG also runs a number of cross-border services between Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Mr Ma reckons this gives it an edge in the Bukit Merah package, which includes two cross-border services to Johor Baru.

The company, set up in 1975, also employs several pioneering technologies, such as mobile phone bus fare payment, a "lost and found" app, and a patented fast electric-charging technology.

"In addition, we are pioneering premium on-demand bus services and the use of artificial intelligence in the form of predictive analytics," he said.

Mr Ma added that SZBG is also testing face-recognition technology to monitor a bus driver's behaviour and fatigue level, vehicle collision avoidance systems, and devices to detect corrosive and inflammable substances onboard.

"Despite Singapore's relatively smaller physical size compared with Shenzhen, we recognise and admire the city's prominent global status as an international tourism and event destination, attracting well over 16 million international visitors in 2016," Mr Ma said.

Apart from public buses, SZBG's business covers taxis (with 2,800 of them being electric), limousine and car rental services, bus advertising services, property development and management, new energy, big data and financing.

It has a fleet of some 11,000 vehicles with total assets of 8 billion yuan (S$1.6 billion) and a workforce of 25,000.