Malaysia’s largest interstate coach operator, Transnasional, has launched a new high-capacity double-decker coach, dubbed the Skyview in 2008. The Skyviews are deployed on daily services between the capital Kuala Lumpur with Johor Bahru, Malacca and Kuala Terengganu. These economy class coaches can accommodate up to a maximum of 69 passengers, a record for an interstate express bus. This record however, has been overwritten by the newer Plusliner Xtreme operated by sister company Plusliner. The Xtreme series can carry more than 70 passengers at any given time. Being an economy class coach, they are arranged in the ‘2+2’ seating configuration.
From Johor Bahru, the service is operated 4 times daily. It departs from the Larkin Terminal in Johor Bahru and arrives at Puduraya Bus Station in KL. Since there is no online ticketing available, I tried my luck on the first trip which departs at ten in the morning. I was lucky as there are still seats available for the trip. I paid RM31.10 (SGD13.00) for a ticket, including a compulsory 30% surcharge of RM7.20. On the ticket, it was written that the bus deployed bears the registration number of WRH6708.
The Skyviews are manufactured by Bee Hing Coachworks, and is exclusive to Transnasional. Two chassis types were selected for the Skyviews – MAN 24.460 and Scania K124EB. The former is deployed on the East Coast routes with the latter operating on the other routes. WRH6708 with the fleet tag of T301S is a Scania K124EB, with a horsepower rating of 420bhp and runs on a Euro-3 engine. There are several unique features of the bus. These includes a middle door for boarding and alighting activities, a centre staircase to the upper deck, inconsistent seat numbers as well as a pair of seats just beside the driver on the lower deck.
Almost all seats have been snapped up for the trip. I was given a seat on row 1. You must have guessed that row 1 will be the front-most row or gunzel seats as I usually call it. I thought the same until I found out that it was actually on row 3! Not really disappointed but I’m still puzzled by the strange seat numbers. For your information, the first row was tagged as row F, followed by row S and row 1. The seats near the staircase had rows U and P. I also noticed another interesting feature of the seat numbers. As opposed to conventional ‘AB+CD’ arrangement for a typical economy class buses, the Skyviews had a rather strange arrangement; ‘AD+BC’. My ticket stub showed seat number ‘1D’ so I thought I got a window seat. It was actually an aisle seat!
The bus departed Larkin ten minutes behind scheduled. The standard of cleanliness was satisfactory. However, I’m quite uncomfortable with the presence of flies around. Not surprising since many of the local folks brought a plethora of things onboard. I was also told that the Skyview is uncomfortable, which I agree to a certain extent. The leather Vogelsitze seats were quite comfy for me. It can be manually-reclined to a certain angle. But this reclining feature is a setback to those seated at the back. Because of the high passenger capacity, there is a minimal legroom provision for passengers. As such, if the passenger seated in front chose to recline his seat, there goes your space. I would also like to note that the seats are not recommended for plus-sized passengers, so unless you’re on a budget, you might want to give the Skyview a miss.
The air-conditioning system cools the saloon at a very comfortable temperature, not too warm and not too cold. The air-con blower is hidden away from view, and is almost exclusive to those on the window seat. The air-con is generated independently at the rear of the upper saloon. A 17-inch LCD screen is placed in front of the bus, and can be folded up when not in use. A smaller 9-inch screen is placed just below but I have no idea what purpose it served. The front-most row on the upper deck has its seats lowered than the other seats due to the low headroom.
On the lower deck, you can be seated right next to the driver. This feature is unique to high-capacity double-decker coaches. 18 passengers can be seated on both sides of the bus. It is rather cramp on the lower deck and some might even feel a little bit claustrophobic.
Back to the trip itself, the bus made its way directly to the North-South Highway. It made a 30-minute break at Restoran Jaya in Simpang Renggam. There were also several other Transnasional buses at the restaurant. After continuing its journey along the highway, it made another 20-minutes break at the Kampung Bemban Lay-by. It continued its journey at around 1.05pm. There were to be no further stops or breaks from then on. As expected, no programmes were shown on the screen during the journey.
Apart from the loss of my space due to the reclined seat in front of me, I actually felt comfortable for most of the journey. In fact, I fell asleep at some points. The traffic flow was rather smooth for most of the journey from Johor Bahru to Melaka, but it started to get heavy once we entered the KL-Seremban Expressway.
The bus reached Sungai Besi Toll Plaza on the fringe of Kuala Lumpur at around 2.25pm. The traffic got really congested soon after we left the toll plaza. By the time we reached Jalan Imbi, the traffic came to a standstill. Usually, it will take no more than 5 minutes for the bus to pass this road and reach Puduraya Bus Station. After a frustrating 15 minutes, the bus finally reached its destination – Puduraya Bus Station.
This has been my first trip on an economy class express coach in as many years. I did not put too much expectation on the trip since I have no experience riding on one. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the trip on the Skyview. The rather claustrophobic feeling of the bus was compensated by the smooth and meticulous driving skills of the driver. The lack of air-con blower was negligible, as I felt cool throughout the journey. However, I felt annoyed by the presence of flies right from the start of the journey. For a bus which serves the common folks regularly, it was pretty clean. I also noticed a cleaner who went around the bus immediately after the last passenger disembarked.
I am pleased to award the Transnasional Skyview 2.5 stars.
For more information, please log on to http://www.transnasional.com.my.