With Melaka being a fairly big market for express coach operators to tap in, another fairly newcomer, Meridian Holidays, has also answered calls from consumers to provide more services between the state and Singapore. Meridian Holidays is the newest operator on the route, whose operations started just a month ago in July 2010. It is starting with just 3 trips daily, with an additional departure specially on Sundays.
Like Delima Express and Malacca-Singapore Express, the service will depart Melaka Sentral and arrive at Kallang Bahru Bus Station in Singapore. However, all trips will also call at Larkin Sentral in Johor Bahru before arriving in Singapore. Interestingly, it has tied up with Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort by providing another alternative disembarkation point in Singapore. This is, however, only available for the 7.30am departure from Melaka Sentral. Services have been scheduled to depart at 7.30am, 1.30pm and 7pm on Mondays to Saturdays, with an additional departure set at 4.30pm on Sundays. All trips will be served by a mix of single-decker and high-decker coaches. Adult tickets are sold at RM19 to Johor Bahru and RM21.60 to Singapore.
I bought my tickets in advance, with anticipation that tickets may be sold out much earlier than usual. Instead of heading straight to Singapore, I opted to alight at Johor Bahru instead. I arrived early at Melaka Sentral for the 7.30am departure. Always remember, let us wait for the bus as the bus will not wait for us. Upon reaching at the terminal, I glanced on the bus that was scheduled for the early morning departure on that cloudy Sunday morning. The bus, JHF2233, a Mercedes-Benz CBC1725 was shifted from the parking area to the boarding berth some 15 minutes prior to departure. Passengers are allowed to board the bus 5 minutes before the scheduled departure.
Apparently, the bus was not full. In fact, only 10 passengers including myself were on the bus. Despite that, the bus did delay the departure for around 10 minutes as a passenger who had booked a seat was still nowhere to be seen. After deciding that the passenger might not come after all, the bus then depart Melaka Sentral.. and towards a route quite unfamiliar to me.
As the bus cruised south along Lebuh AMJ, I can’t help but assume that the bus will not be heading to the North-South Highway. Instead, the bus was heading to Muar. After a 45 minutes ride and crossing over to the state boundary of Johor, we did arrive in the town of Muar. The bus picked up another 2 passengers at the Petronas petrol station along Jalan Salleh, and head straight to the North-South Highway along the same road.
Traffic along the southbound carriageway was not heavy and very smooth. Usually, those situations will be taken advantage by drivers to reach their destinations faster. However, this was not the case with the bus. Rather, I find the bus trying very hard to reach its cruising speed. The engine also sounded ‘stressed’. Luckily, the suspension was something on a positive side, or else, it would have been a dismal journey. A short toilet break was made at the Yong Peng Lay-by. 10 minutes later, the bus was back on the highway.
The bus reached Larkin Sentral at just past 11 in the morning, a nearly 4-hour ride from Melaka. In comparison, a typical journey from Melaka would have taken no longer than 3 hours. This was an exception, however as the bus made an unexpected detour to Muar to pickup a couple more of passengers. I also think that the rather slow bus contributed to the longer time it took to reach Johor Bahru. The bus itself, assembled by Johor-based Link Prosper LP Jaya Coach Builders, were quite neat and tidy. The airconditioner, on the other hand, needs to be just a tad cooler. I’ll give the thumbs up to the seats, which are similar to those found on the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) coaches, as they are very comfortable and are not too big or too small for me.
It was neither a too bad or too good a journey for me on Meridian Holidays. Kudos to them as they dared to venture into the crowded Melaka-Singapore route, and providing commuters with an alternative to the incumbents Delima Express and Malacca-Singapore Express. I will give Meridian Holidays a 3-star rating.
For ticketing and information, please contact Meridian Holidays at:
Melaka Sentral Bus Terminal
Singapore – Lavender Street/Kallang Bahru Bus Station
C/o Hasry Express Pte Ltd
Tel: +65-6294 9306
Singapore – Keypoint, Jalan Sultan/Beach Road
C/o Golden Coach Express & Services Pte Ltd
371 Beach Road, #01-25, Key Point, Singapore 199597
Tel: +65-6392 3623