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Train squeeze – “cannot be helped”?

"Of course we have to put up with more crowded trains, more crowded buses, (but) it cannot be helped." MM Lee Kuan Yew, 18 Feb 2010, Channelnewsasia.

8 May 2010, letter to Straits Times Forum Page:

I TRAVEL regularly by MRT between Bukit Batok and Raffles Place during peak hours and often it is difficult to board the trains both in the morning and evening. Although peak-hour rush is inevitable and understandable, I would like to present some observations which may suggest some tips on easing the congestion.

SMRT runs several direct train services during morning peak hour to Pasir Ris, thus avoiding changing trains at Jurong East, which is very useful. However, it is very difficult to get on these direct services as they are jam-packed (especially at Bukit Batok), although a sizeable crowd gets off at Jurong East. To maximise the number of passengers heading into town on these direct services, they could skip Jurong East.

It would be useful if this service was extended in the reverse direction during even peak hour.

Sometimes, a few trains come one after the other in one- or two-minute gaps, after which there is a longer gap of three to five minutes before the next train arrives. Because of this unequal frequency, the last trains in the first batch have fewer passengers, while the first trains in the next batch are overly crowded. It would be useful if the frequency of services was adjusted so every train carries an optimum commuter load.

It is not uncommon to see a less crowded train closing its doors and pulling out from Jurong East towards Pasir Ris while a North-South train that has just arrived is about to open its doors. As a result, passengers need to wait for the next service. But many times, the next train may be heading to the terminus. Then by the time the service after that arrives, another trainload of people would have arrived on the North-South Line. If it is possible to synchronise these services, such situations can be avoided.

During evening peak hours, it appears the frequency of services on the North-South and East-West lines do not quite match the crowd that changes trains at Jurong East. Services in either direction on the East-West Line offload large crowds at Jurong East, while there are far fewer services on the North-South Line. Of course, the North-South Line has only one track and some additional tracks are being laid.

I also think that the number of grab-poles in the carriages is minimal - there is one row on either side or just one row in the middle. I do not know if this is one reason why passengers often choose to stay near the doors. To make people move towards the centre, more grab-pole rows may be required.

Krishnan Muralidharan

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Pictures from pkchukiss flickr

If you have pictures of crowds at MRT stations, or if you want to share your experiences, please do email them to: [email protected]