The Bus Training and Evaluation Centre (BTEC) opened yesterday, boasting 12 simulators to give trainees a sense of what they will face on Singapore's roads.
The 6,300 sq ft facility, which cost about $20 million, was set up by SMRT and the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability (e2i) after a year of planning and is situated at the latter's campus in Jurong East.
It houses four full-cabin simulators that replicate the look and feel of a driver's cabin - complete with rear-view mirrors, steering wheel and instrument panels.
The other eight simulators are used for more basic training such as route familiarisation.
The centre is currently used by SMRT but it is hoped that other operators will also turn to it to train their own drivers.
"We designed this place with the intention for the entire industry to come here for this training," said SMRT vice-president for buses Tan Kian Heong.
According to e2i, Tower Transit - the London-based operator that won the first bus-contracting tender in May - has expressed interest in sending its drivers to the centre for training. The centre has room for four more full-cabin simulators, which will be introduced when new operators decide which models of bus they will be using.
The 16 simulators will cost a total of about $20 million and aim to reduce the time new drivers spend familiarising themselves with routes.
SMRT declined to reveal the amount it has paid in the venture.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo, who was at the centre's opening, said there are merits in consolidating training resources for the bus industry and that the Public Transport Tripartite Committee has held initial discussions on the issue.
"We have agreed to take the next few months to flesh out the ideas to take things forward," she said.
Separately, SBS Transit said yesterday that it will install another 21 sets of its own bus driver training system at the company's development centre in Hougang within the year. It currently has 49.
Since 2006, it has invested more than $1.2 million in its Vigil and Mobileye training systems.
The former uses technology to analyse bus drivers while they are on the road and generates a report of their performance at the end of each session.
The latter is a smart camera that alerts drivers if they are at risk of colliding with objects.
In the meantime, all of SMRT's 2,500 drivers will visit its centre for two to three days of training over the next year.
They will learn to work in a team with service controllers based in operation centres.
Previously, this training was done through "table-top exercises", in which drivers and service controllers practised around a table.
The simulator system at BTEC has been programmed with more than 1,000 scenarios, which instructors can customise for individual trainees, said Mr Tan. For instance, instructors can trigger cyclists or pedestrians to dash out suddenly.
Bus captain Amy Tan, 49, who has been with SMRT for five years, said: "On the road it can be dangerous for new drivers. Here you can learn without endangering pedestrians or passengers."