SMRT trains are not packed, according to it’s CEO

People can board the trains – it is whether they choose to.”

Perhaps after looking at the picture below, one wonders what SMRT’s CEO Saw Phaik Hwa was thinking when she made the above statement.

Picture taken from Richard Seah

Ms Saw was responding to questions about crowded trains, in a Sunday Times’ article, which I strangely can’t find online, but I found a screenshot of it in The Online Citizen.

She ‘doesn’t think that trains here are as packed as Hong Kong, Taipei and Shanghai”, which brings me to the question if she has ever took a train during peak hours. Maybe not, since she doesn’t have to, since she’s SMRT’s Highest paid CEO.

I’m still seriously dumfounded as to why SMRT are not running more trains and reducing the waiting time. As Nelson Poon wrote in his blogpost titled ‘An open letter to SMRT CEO’:

…I am seriously infuriated with the trains coming at intervals of 4 ~ 5 mins between 7pm ~ 730pm while a lot of people are still just getting off work. While statistically one train coming at 4 ~ 5 mins and another coming at 2 mins gives you an average interval of 3.5 minutes a train, that is not the same as trains coming at a constant interval 3.5 mins. Running some of your trains at higher load than another is creating uneven wear and tear on your trains and the tracks and it definitely hurts your bottom line.

Guess it’s time for Ms Saw to take a train ride. During peak hours.



Filed under Singapore, SMRT

19 responses to “SMRT trains are not packed, according to it’s CEO

  1. greenlight

    Take a picture in the middle area of the train at the same time and it’ll be empty. It’s not that the trains are full, it’s that Singaporeans don’t know how to ride subways properly and all crowd by the door and refuse to use the full space of the car. Call it Kiasu or whatever, but that would be the reason the system appears to be full before it reaches its design capacity.

    • tauhuayboy

      Well, people who don’t move in to the middle are a thing of the past. After the announcements in the trains didn’t work, SMRT placed staff to act like traffic wardens, who use whistles to ask passengers to move in. It seems to have work.

      So I don’t think that can be a excuse that SMRT can reuse.

  2. AbsoluteJunkie

    Kns lah! dat CEO no need 2 take mrt 2 work n she just babble like an idiot. WTF. Is not we don wan to board train, is we CAN’T cos is too muthafarking crowded ! Wake up yr bloody idea, Ms Saw Phaik Hwa ! 😡

  3. I just had to reblog your post…hope you don’t mind. I am so infuriated by this whole episode….reeks of arrogance and lack of compassion. Again the poor passengers are left to endure.

  4. xtrocious

    And it’s just as bad early in the morning…

    6.50am at Bukit Gombak station going towards Jurong East, it’s almost impossible to get on…

    I usually have to wait for at least two trains – if I am lucky – before I can squeeze onboard…

    Note – I still have to squeeze onboard

    Does it sound like I am still “choosy”?

    To be honest, the ring system sucks – the stations nearest to the interchanges are usually the most packed…

    • tauhuayboy

      Well, Ms Saw thinks we have a ‘choice’. You and I wouldn’t be taking squeezed like sardines if we had a ‘choice’, would we?

    • Student@Gombak

      Couldn’t agree more, xtrocious! The situation at gombak is horrible. And for me, I’ll have to wait up to another two trains to be able to get in. Of course, you can argue that I don’t want to go in. The only possible way for me to squeeze in is for me to push the people around me and cut their so called “queues”. Wouldn’t that be immorally upright, SOME people of Singapore?

  5. Its ok. I’ve come up with a brilliant solution for Ms Saw.
    That free space above commuters heads are wasted space! So, can she share some of her generous pay package with me? 🙂

  6. It seems to me that it might not be possible to increase the frequency safely for the older lines due to the distance between stations. I’ve been on trains where the train would have to stop in the middle of the trip between stations just to wait for an earlier station to depart the platform.

    • tauhuayboy

      I don’t see anything wrong for the trains to stop in the middle of the trip when waiting for the the previous train to depart the next station.

      What would you rather have? Being squeezed like sardines? Or giving up a few seconds so that you can have more space in the train?

  7. Passingby

    Does she really want us to squeeze like sardines? Even if we can squeeze, it isn’t necessarily good. I have fainted on the train twice before during rush hour as it was so crowded I couldn’t breath. (Btw, no smrt staff helped …at all.)

  8. I would be happy to be blowing my vuvuzela on the train Ms Saw gets on.

    I would also be happy to be the obligatory inconsiderate Singaporean who will squeeze in front of her and push her out of the train.


  9. Personally, I think we should start a blog / site and let everyone contribute their photos whenever they encounter a packed station / train.

    Here’s mine:

    July 2nd, 2010. 1920hrs. Tanjong Pagar MRT Station.

  10. Joseph Lim

    I find Miss Saw Phaik Hwa’s (SMRT Corporation Chief Executive Officer and President) comments very annoying and humorous at the same time.

    I seriously refuse to believe that trains are already running at their highest frequency possible – given the train network’s design – during peak hours. I myself take the train daily both during peak and non-peak hours and the trains are ridiculously crowded. I board the train from Eunos MRT station to Jurong East MRT station during the morning peak hours at around 7.00 a.m. and I am forced to wait for three or four trains to pass before I can board one which is not really crowded and if I am lucky, get a seat.

    The train frequencies at that time is not two or three minutes but can be as long as four to six minutes. I have a strong feeling that the train drivers are driving very slowly on purpose so as to get as many commuters to board the trains and become sardine packed and claustrophobic.

    I have noticed on far too many occasions that train doors do not close immediately after commuters have boarded but are left open in the extremely annoying hope that many more commuters will run in and crowd out the train, making the train bursting at the seams.

    It is simply illogical to compare SMRT’s train loads with that of much bigger, populated cities like Shanghai, London and Hongkong. They have different train systems.

    I vehemently disagree with her comment that “people can board the train – it’s whether they choose to”. Trains are already ridiculously crowded, more often than not with little or no standing space at all and not even one single empty seat. How do you expect people to board the train?

    People have to wait for several trains to pass before they can comfortably board one which is not so crowded and has a higher likelihood of getting an empty seat.

    She is being very sarcastic in her response to whether she reads the comments and blogs laughing and saying “I’d be very depressed if I read every comment about me.” This goes to show that she is very lackadasical and indifferent about commuters’ woes and how we are literally suffering. She may have read, or rather, glanced through the comments without really thinking about them and trying to find ways to solve the infinite number of problems that SMRT faces.

    Does SMRT consciously realise that commuters'(e.g. workers, students) time is wasted waiting for several trains to pass before being able to board one that is not so crowded? If trains can run at the highest possible optimal frequency of two minutes at all times of the day and not just only during peak hours, then I strongly believe that trains will not be crowded and bursting at the seams like now and commuters will not have a hard time getting a seat. It is just whether SMRT is willing to do so.

    Miss Saw told MediaCorp that she takes a train almost every week, with her last morning peak trip “a few months ago”. I find this very hard to believe as there is no evidence to prove this. Is there any video footage of her boarding trains and interacting with commuters on the ground to get a better understanding of the true situation at hand? If there is, then I am sure the public can believe. Miss Saw also has the luxury of driving a car to work unlike the average Singaporean who has to make do with extremely unreliable and inefficent public transportation.

    Miss Saw also said “The fact is, we’re so bothered by it (overcrowding) that we place senior management’s attention to this inordinately,” Is it really so? Then why is the problem of overcrowding still ever persistent? It is simply because train frequencies are too low (even during peak hours), there are not enough trains, seats in trains have been removed, train drivers are not driving fast enough and purposely leaving train doors open for as long as two to three minutes so as to get as many commuters as possible to board the trains and wasting commuters’ time. If SMRT can solve the above, then overcrowding can also be solved.

    Also, the replies given by SMRT staff to the press are more often than not standard template replies with some amendments here and there, being unsatisfactory in directly addressing commuters’ concerns and issues at hand.

    Miss Saw also seems to be very sarcastic when she said “What we have done is every week, and I am talking about every week, not year, we are adding 1,110 train rides already. As late as March and April, we added another 150 rides.” By this comment, it can be inferred that she is implying commuters are too demanding that she emphasises the words “every week” and not year to show that SMRT is trying to lessen overcrowding on trains. But I, and I am sure, many commuters like myself, do not see any visible improvement in the overcrowding situation. How are we supposed to know if there are really an additional 1,110 train rides added every week?

    She also said “I am very aware it’s crowded. I take trains all the time. I take the effort to go all the way to the northern towns to see how crowded it is during the morning peaks and I take the train with the people.” Again, this is ironic. Miss Saw seems to be contradicting herself when she also said that she takes a train almost every week but in another response she said she take trains all the time. So which is correct? And why is it that she only goes to the northern towns? What about the east, west and south? They are also overcrowded.

    She said “It is crowded but I push my way in. It is crowded, but when they are already running at 2-3 minutes (intervals), it’s the most that I can do. I cannot go faster than that without compromising safety and reliability.”

    It shows that even Miss Saw herself has problems getting into the trains to the extent that she has to push her way in. It is good that she acknowledges the problem but more must be done.

    By the way, Miss Saw commands a high salary. She was paid $1 million dollars-plus, but what she is doing is not enough to justify her high salary.
    SMRT also has a tendency to cite statistics in their replies to the press/media. However, statistics do not always tell the truth and one must be on the ground to get the true facts.

    Miss Saw said that she does not read all the comments and blogs as if she does so she would be very depressed. But she missed a point here. Being a good service provider that is customer-oriented, SMRT and in particular Miss Saw who is the CEO should take the effort to read the comments by the public commuters on what their woes, grouses, complaints etc. are and to act on them as soon as possible. Only then will people be confident in SMRT in providing good, high quality public transportation.

    Look at the recent SMRT depot incident. Although it is a different issue altogether, it clearly shows that SMRT is not doing enough in all aspects of its operations and other areas. This has also exposed the vulnerability of depots.

    And why is it that only 22 trains have been ordered by SMRT and only by end of 2011? Why not many more trains (e.g. 30 or 40 trains) and earlier?
    Why are these new trains being put into service progressively only from May 2011 onwards? Why not earlier?

    From the last time I heard there were 66 trains and according to the SMRT website it expects all trains to be upgraded by end of 2008 but it seems that this is not the case as I still see and board those old trains which have much narrower and smaller seats and extremely poor air-conditioning.

    SMRT needs to work on improving comfort levels in trains by reducing the air-conditioning temperature, installing more air-con vents, more comfortable seats, increasing train frequencies, cleaning up entire trains both interior and exterior, making train drivers drive faster and close the doors immediately and not wait for a few minutes before closing so as to get more commuters at the expense of wasting commuters’ precious time.

  11. Alphonse

    Wow – HUGE issue! Well, what do you know… A common problem here is that accountability works bottom up and the rules, policies and standards of living for commoners are set by those high up. They’re too high up they lost the connection to common people. Taking public transport just for investigation purposes puts you in a different mindset than commuters who are resigned to taking public transport their whole lives. Madam COE there could stop taking public whenever she feels like, but not us. Don’t you think the disconnect between the upper, working, middle and lower classes are getting more obvious? Maybe soon there will be only 2, high class and low class. Already it is in the works and evident in our local setting:

    Those who designs the layouts of HDB flats stay in private appartments.
    Those who initiated the “Go Public” campaign might be driving to work.
    Those who want to increase the fertility rate might not have families.
    Those who say foreigners are not taking our jobs are all already hired.

    It is definitely not easy if you are on the receiving end. Have they gone mad? The disconnect is blatantly obvious… 1st class honours, 3rd grade human…

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