Written by Ng E-Jay
06 May 2009
I read with complete disbelief media reports that SMRT will REDUCE train frequency by 30 per cent once Singapore’s pandemic alert level hits red.
According to Channel News Asia’s article “SMRT’s train frequency to be reduced if flu alert hits red” published on 04 May, the reason given is that SMRT’s service staff will be divided into two teams to prevent the potential spread of the H1N1 virus.
Presumably, train frequencies would have to be reduced to cope with the manpower shortage.
However, it hardly takes a genius to know that reducing train frequencies in the midst of flu outbreak is moronic. The trains would suffer worse congestion with more passengers cramped into the limited space, increasing the risk of the contagious flu virus spreading.
Rather than reducing train frequencies in response to manpower requirements, SMRT should instead hire more staff. After all, isn’t this supposed to be a recession with retrenchment at multi-year highs? Aren’t there supposed to be people out there looking for jobs?
With the record breaking profits made by SMRT the last couple of years, cutting train frequencies rather than hiring more staff to ensure that the trains operate safely and smoothly is absolutely mercenary. In a potential flu pandemic, it is also absolutely irresponsible.
That is not the kind of service standard citizens should expect from a provider of public transport, which is an essential service that should never have been privatized and left to the whim and fancy of corporate greed.
The same Channel News Asia report also stated that SMRT increased its cleanliness vigilance level in trains and buses by more than three times ever since the Health Ministry raised the flu alert to orange. This is a vague statement. How does SMRT quantify “cleanliness vigilance level”? What is the metric used?
The report also stated: “Public areas are cleaned once every two hours and temperatures of SMRT officers are checked twice daily. There is also a quarantine room for passengers who display flu symptoms.”
I take the MRT everyday, but I hardly see SMRT personnel monitoring the passengers except near control stations. As far as I know there are no temperature scanners installed at the control station to record the infra-red signatures of people entering or leaving. Do the SMRT personnel rely on visual observation alone to detect those with flu-like symptoms? That must hardly be reliable.
I see people sneezing and coughing all the time in MRT stations but no one even bothers to tell them to cover their mouth and nose while doing so. Perhaps SMRT should start by advocating courtesy before telling the media that it is ready to quarantine passengers.