SINGAPORE - Despite some negative feedback from commuters and the possibility of a penalty by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), SMRT is encouraging more schools to charter trains from them during off-peak hours should they need to transport a large group of students.
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In a statement posted on Facebook by SMRT's managing director on Thursday, Ms Lee Ling Wee, she noted that the charters were made possible because the school had informed SMRT beforehand.
She wrote: "We are grateful that the school informed us beforehand as it gave us time to make the operational scheduling decisions that minimized inconvenience to other commuters along the line. When the request was surfaced for decision, the key considerations were operational, and whether we could support it with minimal impact to other commuters.
"Given the advance notice, staff were able to work with the school to move the thousands of students along the Circle Line in a smooth, timely and efficient manner even while stations along the line remained open to other commuters."
She added: "We were able to insert five trains to support this request because it was planned during the off-peak period... The story may have been different had 3,000 students descended on the Circle Line with no prior notice at the same time without crowd control measures in place, catching commuters and our station staff by surprise."
Ms Lee also explained the charters "are not without precedent", as "tens of thousands of students from many schools have experienced similar charters done in support of National Education shows in recent years – all moved efficiently and safely and without fuss. No permission was sought from LTA in these charters."
But she acknowledged that SMRT will keep the relevant agencies updated on such arrangements in future.
"We will review such requests on a case-by-case basis to assess how we can best meet people-mover needs, while ensuring the safety and reliability of travel on SMRT Trains."
In response to media queries earlier, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman said: "Under the Circle Line licence, SMRT has to seek LTA's prior approval for the provision of train services that are not open to the general commuting public.
"In this case, SMRT did not seek our approval before agreeing to provide the service. We are looking into the appropriate action to take. We have also reminded SMRT that its primary focus must be to ensure good service delivery to the commuting public at large.