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.


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  1. How about SMRT spending a bit, just a bit, of their profit to give out free masks? I think it’s a reasonable suggestion.

    Few years ago, I could see advertisements on train boasting that 400,000 (if i didnt recall wrongly) passengers look at their advertisements a day, so companies should advertise with them. Obviously the number has since risen significantly.

    How about raising awareness of using mask in Singapore? Can be a collaboration with MOH or something along this line. Free masks, anyone?

  2. Do the masks actually work at all? I mean most of them look like any other thin paper mask so I doubt they would provide any significant protection.. any thoughts?

  3. Actually, I don’t see why everyone is up in arms about this.. What so moronic about it?

    They have a very logical reasoning.. They want to split up the staff into 2 teams, so that if there is a need to quarantine 1 team, the other team can still run the services.. And that’s ONLY if we hit Red.

    And as to adding more ppl to the staff, would you really have your MRT driven by someone who joined SMRT last week??

  4. Nowhere did the clowns state the operational period where MRT frequency is cut. If the clowns still mentally sound rather than unsound, the cut will not be in peak hours as it is already sardine-packed but in hours where MRT train is non-peak hours where train is yet to sardine-packed . Needless to say, this means that in all day, the train will be sardine-packed for 30% reduction which mean that there is only peak hours thoughout the day, increasing the likelihood of flu transmission while decreasing the operational cost as less train is used to ensure maximum capacity utilization. See how the hogwash of government is repeated in good and bad times.

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