It was a happy occasion for Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) on Tuesday when it beat St Andrews Secondary 28-8 in the Schools National C Division rugby final at the Singapore Sports Hub.
It was the first schools final at the 55,000-seater National Stadium – and ACS (I) had chartered five SMRT trains to ferry some 3,000 to 5,000 of its students and staff from its Dover Road campus to the stadium in Kallang.
Students had started to leave their school from 11am to go to the One North train station, escorted by their teachers, and arrived at the Stadium Station, on the Circle Line. The match took place at 4pm.
But the SMRT is now being probed for allowing its trains to be chartered for what is a private event.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that under the Circle Line Licence, “SMRT has to seek LTA’s approval for the provision of train services that are not open to the general commuting public.”
"In this case, SMRT did not seek our approval before agreeing to provide the service,” a spokesman for the LTA said. “We are looking into the appropriate action to take. We have also reminded SMRT that its primary focus must be to ensure good service delivery to the commuting public at large."
The SMRT, in its defence, said that the chartering of the five trains did not affect normal services to the general public as the students and staff were ferried to the stadium “strictly within off-peak hours.”
“SMRT assures passengers that train intervals are maintained at normal service at all times,” the transport operator said.
ACS(I) principal Winston Hodge had told the media earlier that the school would have needed “at least 80 buses” to transport its students and staff to the game. Thus, he said, the trains were “a cost-efficient way of bringing them from school to the Sports Hub safely and with ease.”
It was also reported that the cost to the school was about S$2 per head for the trip.
SMRT vice-president of corporate information and communications, Patrick Nathan, said that this isn’t the first time that its trains have been chartered for certain events. It had also been leased to transport students “for large-scale events such as the National Day Parade rehearsals.”
"SMRT believes in supporting local education and national initiatives and will continue this support without compromising our core service delivery in ensuring reliable, safe journeys for all passengers,” Mr Nathan said.
The SMRT’s decision to allow its trains to be chartered for the event has drawn both criticisms and understanding from the public, with some expressing surprise that trains can be chartered, others dismayed and questioned if schools were getting special treatment from the operator, and that the trains could have been better used to serve the general public.
Others, however, felt that SMRT made the right decision and that this had helped to avoid affecting traffic conditions, which would have been affected if the students and staff were ferried by 80 to 100 buses instead.
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