The state of our buses – LTA should do more

I refer to the report,  Only one case of non-compliance” (TODAY April 6) on the Public Transport Council’s review of bus service standards.

Every day,  many students and adults rely on both bus and rail  transport to go to school and to work.

As fare-paying customers, they have every right to expect the following service standards.  Not just affordable fares and timely arrivals, but also a pleasant ride which means  air-conditioned comfort with proper circulation of cool clean air in the cabins.

Why the concern?   Because this is also a public health issue.  Our jam-packed public transportation system  is a possible mode for the transmission of various air-borne infectious diseases, such as  Common Cold, Influenza, Tuberculosis, SARS, H1N1 and Bird Flu.

For years, many long-suffering commuters have provided feedback about the stuffy and dusty  interiors of our crowded buses and trains.  Many buses have a lingering smell of stale air, and their aircon vents are often encrusted with black dust which could harbour mould.  When breathe in, mould can cause respiratory or asthma problems especially for young students and elderly commuters.

Alas, such customer feedback have fallen on deaf ears.  Despite being public transport regulator, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had conveniently passed the buck to the respective bus or rail operator to cook up defensive  “non-answer” replies.

To protect both the health and travel comfort of public transport commuters, why is it so difficult for the LTA to lay down and enforce these service standards on our bus and train operators:

After bus and train services end at midnight, cleaning crew to move in with heavy-duty vacuum cleaners to suck dust from aircon vents and floors.  The interiors must be cleaned on a daily basis because of the heavy usage of public transport.

“High-touch” surfaces, such as grab handles and poles should be wiped clean with an appropriate disinfectant.

Set stringent intervals for aircon maintenance and changing of dirty aircon filters.

If the LTA cannot enforce such a simple service standard that will definitely encourage more Singaporeans to switch to public transport, its claim of a  “World-Class Public Transport System” will just be an empty boast.  It now remains for Transport Minister Raymond Lim and his well-paid LTA bureaucrats to “walk the talk”.

David See

This is a letter which was rejected for publication by Today.

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