Avoid public transport if unwell: Khaw Boon Wan

PHOTO: The Straits Times file

More needs to be done to reduce crowding on public transport in light of the Covid-19 crisis, even though ridership has fallen by around 20 per cent, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday.

He outlined a few steps:

One, do not use public transport if you are unwell, as doing so will endanger other commuters.

Two, cut down on unnecessary travel during this period.

Three, talk softly, if you need to.

"Best, don't talk," he said. "Let fellow commuters have a quiet journey."

Talking increases the chance of droplets - a key means of transmission - being dispersed.

And, lastly, avoid travelling during peak hours.

"Here we need employers to help out by supporting staggered working hours, flexi-time and telecommuting. Many have done so."

Mr Khaw Boon Wan (fifth from left) visiting the Thomson-East Coast Line's Bright Hill Station with Venerable Sik Kwang Sheng (in yellow robe). PHOTO: The Straits Times

Mr Khaw was speaking during a visit to the Bright Hill MRT station, where he announced that Stage 2 of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) is likely to open after July.

He said that "rigorous testing" of the six-station stretch will be carried out for four months from April.

The six stations are Springleaf, Lentor, Mayflower, Bright Hill, Upper Thomson and Caldecott.

Stage 1 will close early and open later on weekends during this period to facilitate integrated testing of Stage 1 and 2.

"This will allow us to run trains through the entire stretch of nine stations, from Woodlands North to Caldecott for thorough integrated testing. It is necessary," he said.

"We did the same for the Downtown Line, which also opened in stages."

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The Land Transport Authority said in a statement that from April 3 to July 26, services on Stage 1 of the TEL - comprising Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South stations - will close earlier at 10pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and start later at 6.30am every Saturday and Sunday.

TEL Stage 2 - from Springleaf to Caldecott - will benefit more than 60,000 households who live near the six new stations.

It has two interchanges: at Caldecott with the Circle Line, and at Bright Hill with the future Cross Island line.

Asked to comment on the need to reduce crowding on public transport, Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said: "Without serious measures to stagger work timings and to sharply reduce the number of people commuting to work, it will simply be impractical to introduce serious distancing measures on public transit."

But he added that if the outbreak worsens, more drastic steps, like mandatory travel demand management, will have to be taken.

Mr Khaw noted that while many are working from home, more could do so.

"This will reduce peak-hour demand and the pressure on us to add more trains and more lines at great cost to taxpayers and commuters," he said.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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