Thursday, 13 August 2009

Singapore's Buses and Trains: No Durians Allowed But It Could Be Much Worse!

Singapore’s public transport system is extremely efficient. But you probably already knew that, or took it for granted.

The bus and train system is clean, affordable, punctual and effectively coordinated to connect all parts of the 687 square kilometre island well.

In 2008 an average of 2.2 million daily trips were recorded by both the bus and train network. The train (or MRT) network accounted for almost two thirds of the journeys while the buses account for the remaining third. For a resident population of 4.8 million that is an impressive number.

Fines for violating SMRT's strict rules on food and drink consumption keep the system clean

SMRT Corporation, a publicly listed corporation since 2000, is responsible for bringing together various modes of transport on the island. Primarily, it operates rail, light rail and bus services.

Unlike many of its global counterparts, SMRT makes a profit while providing an efficient public service. It has increased its revenue from approximately SGD 497 million in 2002 to SGD 879 million in 2009. In the same period, after tax profitability has almost tripled from SGD 57 million to SGD 163 million.

The network has also been considerably expanded and many new MRT stations and bus interchanges have been added. Upgrades of many existing facilities have been carried out.

By now you must be wondering why I am singing the praises of a public transport company. It is not because I am a model railway enthusiast (which I am).

The reason is because anyone who contemplates how such a network is operated so seamlessly and hassle-free will realize that it is a gargantuan operation. It requires meticulous planning to make sure that all the disparate moving parts don’t grind on each other at any point in time. (If you don’t believe me try being a ‘Railroad Tycoon’ on one of the many such computer games available!)

Just go and watch how the buses operate at a major interchange like Boon Lay. Or maybe you prefer to stand and watch in one of the newer air conditioned bus interchanges? Remember the buses feed into the MRT and vice versa – as does the cashless payment mechanism, the Ez-Link Card.

And spare a thought for the front line staff, the bus driver or train driver, who seems to be getting short shrift these days.

If anyone has the opportunity to travel on the London Underground during peak rush hour you may find yourself thanking the SMRT bus and train Customer Service Charter.

I can assure you that you will not be complaining about bus engine noise levels affecting the comfort of your trip.

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