SINGAPORE - The government's efforts to get people to use the public transport system more are being undermined by SMRT's poor service. Let me elaborate on my frustration with the train system.
I start my daily journey to work at the Bukit Batok station at about 6.40am, to take the connecting train to the Jurong East interchange where I transfer to the East-West line to Tanjong Pagar.
Even at this early hour, the train is often packed and only a few commuters can get on. The next train usually comes three to five minutes later and is also usually full.
When you get lucky enough to squeeze into the car, it feels more like a cattle pen and you pray there is no sick pervert around who'll break wind just for the heck of it.
This is the daily ordeal that many MRT passengers go through. Getting to work by train means a lot of jostling, elbowing and being packed so close to each other that you can almost tell which brand of toothpaste everyone is using.
As a solution, the early morning free ride scheme is commendable, but it seems to have increased passenger loads even more.
Returning home from work throws up another problem which I believe shows SMRT's incompetence.
I leave work at 5pm and getting on the train at Tanjong Pagar is not a problem as the passenger load is light at this hour.
But when I arrive at the Jurong East interchange, another annoying scenario unfolds.
Sometimes, just before I can hop onto the connecting train to Bukit Batok, it closes its doors and leaves, even though it may be half empty. At other times, I get off at this station and find that the train to Bukit Batok is full but still sitting at the station for another couple of minutes.
So you have a half-empty train taking off before passengers can board and a packed train that no one can get on just sitting at the station.
Maybe someone at SMRT has a warped sense of humour.
How does one make sense of this strange phenomenon?
Clearly, it boils down to poor scheduling and synchronising of the trains at interchanges.
SMRT's service pales in comparison with what is available in Hong Kong, which has a much higher population and train ridership. I worked in Hong Kong for five years and found the trains there quite pleasant, though they are also packed during peak hours.
The trains there are more frequent and the ventilation system is very effective. And any breakdown or disruption in service is rare.
Does SMRT send out inspectors to constantly evaluate the service on all its lines and the ground situation at the interchanges?
To improve its service, SMRT needs to make an effective critical assessment of its own performance and practices.
- Robert CL Chew