Penalties for flouting MRT rules under review

The Land Transport Authority is relooking at how it penalises commuters who flout MRT rules, after a student was fined $400 for using an electrical socket at a station to charge her mobile phone.

The incident, which occurred last August, surfaced on Monday on The Real Singapore website.

Responding to press queries on the student's case, an LTA spokesman confirmed the $400 fine yesterday.

"She pleaded guilty and was fined by the court."

The spokesman also said that the authority is looking at "differentiating violations" under the Rapid Transit Systems (RTS) Regulations, which are spelt out over 17 pages and include offences such as eating on trains, loitering and tampering with equipment.

The LTA declined to say exactly what it will be changing, only saying that it hopes to adopt "a calibrated approach that better takes into account the severity of the violation in relation to the impact it could have on the safe and reliable operation of the rail system".

Sources believe that if the review had been done last year, the student who used the station socket to charge her phone may not have been prosecuted.

The Straits Times understands that the girl was first issued a notice of offence by rail operator SMRT for infringing a regulation which bars anyone from the improper use of any electrical equipment "upon the railway premises". It carries a maximum fine of $5,000.

The LTA then followed up with legal action.

The news of the fine whipped up strong reactions among netizens, with one saying it smacked of "high-handedness", adding that the girl could just have been let off with a warning.

Another wrote: "If don't allow, lock up the socket."

That is what SBS Transit - Singapore's other rail operator - does.

Electrical sockets in public areas of its train stations are under lock and key. An SBS Transit spokesman said it does this "to prevent unauthorised use".

At Changi Airport, free charging points are provided in transit areas. But power sockets elsewhere in the terminals are locked "to prevent any misuse which may affect airport operations".

SMRT said it may start doing the same for its sockets, or put up notices to say they are not for public use.

Apparently, connecting a faulty device may cause electrical interference which could trip up the train system.

According to the LTA, about 1,600 notices of offence were issued last year for infringements of RTS regulations, mainly relating to illegal parking on MRT premises.

In 2008, nearly 3,000 were issued, with more than half given to commuters caught eating or drinking in stations or on trains.

There are more than 30 different types of offences under the RTS regulations, each attracting maximum fines of $500 to $5,000.

Lawyer Vijai Parwani said: "Power sockets are ubiquitous. If one is left in the open, it is not unreasonable for a person to assume that it can be used, especially if it's in a public area and it is not under lock and key."

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