Following the implementation of Circuit Breaker by the Government, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had announced that they would be reducing the frequency of public buses and trains to “mitigate the significant financial impact caused by the reduced riderships and help keep public transport operations financially sustainable”.
However, this supposed new measure seemed to have backfired when crowds were spotted on public transport due to the reduced frequency.
Trains were crowded on the first day on 17 April that they were planned to run at longer intervals.
Considering how the Government had been advocating safe distancing especially during the Circuit Breaker period, crowding on public transport defeats the purpose of safe distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan acknowledged that the reduced frequency had caused “some crowding” in some stretches of the North-South East-West Line and the Circle Line during the peak hour in the morning. In response to this matter, Mr Khaw said on 18 April that LTA was studying the matter and would “refine the headways for implementation on Monday (20 April)”.
“I have told LTA to err on the side of generosity, i.e. to over-provide rather than under-provide.”
“During CB, the priority is safe distancing and ensuring our essential workers can reach their work places safely and punctually. For non-essential workers, please work from home and stay at home,” wrote Mr Khaw on his Facebook.
Up until today (20 April), there are still no signs of improvement as people are continuously bringing up the issue of overcrowding. This signifies a lack in urgency to comply with the safe distancing measures amid Circuit Breaker.
People have given feedback on the persistent crowd on public transport, and they took the matter to SMRT’s Facebook.
Jen Ng shared the train with many others this morning, and no signs of social distancing could be seen. The train was still collecting people from station to station despite being filled to the brim.
Mike Lim had also urged SMRT to handle the overcrowding on the trains by reconsidering the frequency of train arrivals during peak hours. Mr Lim thought it wasn’t the commuters’ fault to crowd the trains.
Jenny Fang also noticed the North-South Line was still crowded with people this morning.
Yiyong Pan pleaded SMRT to increase the frequency of trains to thin out the crowd.
Despite the response given by Mr Khaw on 18 April, SMRT has yet to update the public on the schedules. The latest update was made on 14 April, announcing that “there will be no early closures from 17 to 25 April” and that “train services will run normally”.
It seems that LTA has yet to address this issue that could potentially create an unwanted spread of COVID-19 in the community. What’s more, it’s also contradicting to the Circuit Breaker measures that were intended to make people practise safe distancing. Appropriate actions should be taken with a sense of urgency for the sake of ensuring the public’s health and safety.