In a Facebook note on Thursday, the Managing Director (SMRT Trains) explained why the transport operator decided to allow five of its trains to be used to transport 3,000 students and staff of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) on Tuesday.
Ms Lee Ling Wee, who wrote on behalf of the SMRT, said "the key considerations were operational" and whether SMRT could support it with minimal impact to other commuters.
"Given the advance notice, staff were able to work with the school to move the thousands of students along the Circle Line in a smooth, timely and efficient manner even while stations along the line remained open to other commuters," Ms Lee said.
She added, " There is excess capacity during off-peak hours such that as part of our daily schedule, we are able to withdraw some trains from service because of low passenger loadings. The 5 trains inserted on 26 August were part of the trains withdrawn during off-peak hours."
SMRT's decision was criticised by the Land Transport Authority who said that the operator needed to consult and get its approval before allowing its trains to be used in this way. The LTA also said it was considering what action to take against SMRT.
Here is the statement in full by Ms Lee:
We would like to update all of you on our decision to deploy Circle Line trains for Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) on Tuesday.
Five Circle Line trains were assigned to transport some 3,000 ACS(I) students for a one-way journey from one-north MRT station to Stadium MRT station. We are grateful that the school informed us beforehand as it gave us time to make the operational scheduling decisions that minimized inconvenience to other commuters along the line. When the request was surfaced for decision, the key considerations were operational, and whether we could support it with minimal impact to other commuters. Given the advance notice, staff were able to work with the school to move the thousands of students along the Circle Line in a smooth, timely and efficient manner even while stations along the line remained open to other commuters.
We were able to insert five trains to support this request because it was planned during the off-peak period. The nature of operations in CCL is such that while the current train fleet is insufficient to meet commuter demands during morning and evening peak periods, the overall average train capacity utilized throughout the day is only 20%-30%. There is excess capacity during off-peak hours such that as part of our daily schedule, we are able to withdraw some trains from service because of low passenger loadings. The 5 trains inserted on 26 August were part of the trains withdrawn during off-peak hours.
We are pleased to note that normal Circle Line train services ran smoothly throughout the transit. The story may have been different had 3,000 students descended on the Circle Line with no prior notice at the same time without crowd control measures in place, catching commuters and our station staff by surprise. Prior notice by ACS(I) allowed SMRT to put in place crowd control measures at the two stations as both the school and the destination were close to MRT stations.
The response from the students was terrific. Read their responses here in this video:http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/transport/story/smrt-may-face-lta-sanctions-allowing-use-trains-private-use-without-a
The charters are not without precedent. Tens of thousands of students from many schools have experienced similar charters done in support of National Education shows in recent years – all moved efficiently and safely and without fuss. No permission was sought from LTA in these charters.
We encourage more schools in the neighbourhoods located close to MRT stations to consider such charters, during off-peak periods, should they see a need to move a large number of students along our network. All things considered, we feel the effort was genuine and worthwhile as it transported a large number of students efficiently and safely.
Going forward, we will keep the relevant agencies updated on such arrangements.
We will review such requests on a case-by-case basis to assess how we can best meet people-mover needs, while ensuring the safety and reliability of travel on SMRT Trains.
Lee Ling Wee
Managing Director, SMRT Trains