The Train Experience

I have been using the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) System in Singapore for quite some time now.

When I lived in Singapore in my previous stay, I had not used the MRT System that much. I know it was efficient and prompt in providing people transportation service on the island of Singapore, and had the opportunity to take a few rides. While the stations and the trains were always crowded, it was manageable.

How things have changed in just about six years ?

The MRT System is now overcrowded beyond its capacity so much that the train operator has increased its frequency of service significantly. The operator is trying to cope but the crowds keep swelling. This is only the starting point.

On the trains especially in the evenings, the crowd is simply bursting at the seams. It reminds me of the bus services in metro cities in India, where people keep climbing up on the bus steps and pushing themselves in, when it is absolutely clear that there is no standing space at all. Such situations do not occur in the bus services in Singapore (I have used the bus only a couple of times in the past 9 months though). However, on the trains, people here seem to believe that there is huge space inside the trains.

More than this issue, what bothers me is the apparent lack of courtesy to the alighting passengers, though there are several notices and advertisements by the operator to give way. Embarking passengers crowd in, probably afraid that they are going to be left behind and have to wait for the next train. This aggravates the situation, especially in stations which are business hubs like City Hall, Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar.

The unconnected issue is that passengers are focused on their iPADs or iPhones or some smart phones on which there is a video going on and they are unable to take their eyes off their respective screens, further degrading the courtesy factor as they seem to be more intent on viewing a movie than paying attention to the alighting passengers or to passengers on board the train. There is no excuse for continuing the movies that they are watching when there is no standing space and the maneuvering of their iPADs or smart phones takes up extra space.

However, all the above factors not withstanding, the MRT System is still the best transportation system in Singapore. With constant fine-tuning and expansion of the MRT network over the next few years, one can hopefully expect a world-class system which interconnects almost all locations on the island.


Vijay Srinivasan
14th December 2013


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