Public transport operator, SMRT, has acknowledged that it was wrong not to have sought approval from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) before it allowed five of its trains to be used to transport 3,000 students and staff from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) on Tuesday.
The LTA says “SMRT has explained to the regulator why it allowed Tuesday’s charter and admitted that prior approval should have been sought”, according to a local news report.
The LTA, however, did not reveal what the SMRT’s explanation was.
The LTA, however, said, “As a regulator, LTA is responsible for ensuring that train services to the public are provided as scheduled, and that any additional trips in the network do not adversely affect such services.”
According to ACS(I), it had thought that it would be more cost-effective to charter the trains for its students and staff to take them to the inter-school rugby final match with At Andrews Secondary.
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.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said, in reaction to the incident, 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.”
The LTA, in its latest statement on the matter, did not disclose if it will indeed be taking action against the train operator.
The episode has attracted much public debate, especially online. Some felt that there was nothing wrong with what SMRT had done which, they say, had avoided adding to or worsening traffic conditions on the road.
Others, however, felt that as a provider of public service, it should not have allowed the private use of its trains, a view which the chairman of the AS board of governors, Richard Seow, seems to disagree with.
“This is a national school event involving two government-aided schools at the National Stadium, not a private party,” he said.