By Katherine Tan
I would like to give my feedback regarding the lack of safety while travelling with an infant on an SBS Transit bus.
On 21 July 2014 at around 11:30am along Napier Road, I flagged down a 132 bus and asked for assistance from the bus driver to unfold the ramp in order for me to push my baby pram up the bus. He replied that he could not do that for me because according to SBS Transit rules and regulations, I am suppose to carry my baby in my arms and fold up the pram.
I instantly objected to this as it is very apparent to anyone with a child that carrying a baby in my arms on a moving bus is a lot more dangerous than having it strapped into a pram. The driver replied that there were incidents where prams had flown off and injured other passengers. I told him my pram can be locked into a stationary position and I will be standing beside it but he still refused to allow me and my baby onboard without me folding my pram. I decided not to board the bus and walked away as I was not prepared to take the risk.
According to the traffic police rules, a baby must be strapped into a booster seat in a car, a rule which is too often not followed by a majority of Singaporeans or enforced by the authorities. But I am still entitled to ask, since these rules are apparently official, why they are incoherent and in contradiction with SBS Transit's fules?
I called the SBS Transit customer service hotline and was told exactly the same thing. I requested for the customer service operator to send my feedback to her management to look into this rules and her reply was, "I can process your request but the reply you are going to receive is still going to be the same. You can get in touch with LTA (Land Transport Authority) on your point made about travelling with an infant."
Please don't get me wrong, she was understanding and helpful throughout the whole phone conversation but apparently this is the instruction given by her management, which is unacceptable.
I called LTA and the answer I received was, "Madam, regarding your area of concern, you should get in touch with the Traffic Police."
I called up the Traffic Police and was referred back to LTA. Again, this is the sort of merry-go-round encounter that our Prime Minister highlighted in one of his speeches. I was given a follow-up email address by TP which is not a valid email address.
I hope SBS Transit can revisit their rules and regulations and make some amendments to make bus journeys a safer experience for people travelling with their infants and babies.
I would greatly appreciate if I can get a reply from the relevant government agency regarding my concern.
LTA replied Ms Tan with the following:
Dear Ms Tan
Re: Feedback regarding SBST rules & regulation for infant and babies on buses
FEEDBACK NUMBER: 20140722-1321
We refer to your email of 22 July 2014 to Ministry of Transport (MOT) and we would like to apologise for your experience when you referred this to LTA and the Traffic Police. We would also like to take this opportunity to share both LTA and the transport operators’ concerns for passenger safety on public buses.
The design of wheelchair accessible buses does not provide for means to secure open prams, and consequentially the children within them. Compared to a person-in-wheelchair who has the ability to hold onto fixture/handgrips for stability, unsecured prams hence pose a danger both to its young occupants, as well as other passengers when the bus is in motion. This is because buses, unlike trains, must respond to traffic conditions that often require bus drivers to vary driving speeds, halt and make turns at junctions during the journey. All of these instances unintentionally increase the risk that caregivers face, if they attempt to maintain a secure hold over an open pram while holding onto the handgrips themselves during the trip. Caregivers would also find themselves unable to respond to the child’s needs in the pram, without compromising either their own safety or that of the child when the bus is in motion. Hence, at the moment, we deemed that it is safer for the caregiver to be seated with the child in his or her arms, and the pram folded.
We wish to assure you that in the Authority’s efforts to ensure inclusiveness of our public transport systems, public transport operators (i.e. SMRT and SBST) have trained bus drivers to render assistance upon request to fold prams for passengers (who may need to provide instructions) travelling alone with very young children. To encourage graciousness amongst public transport users, operators have also designated seats in public buses that cater for passengers who need them more, such as those travelling with children. We will continue to work with the public transport operators to remind commuters through public awareness messages to offer seats to those who need them more.
We thank you for writing in.