The optimal train of 12 – 16 carriages can carry more than 1000 commuters from point A to point B for an average distance of 30km in less than 30 minutes. Whereas, a bus can only carry up to 80 people even if it’s double decker. Do your math and you will know that buses are not feasible nor efficient to transport commuters from one part of the island to another.
The current problems with our trains lies in 3 aspects.
1. Failing silo culture within SMRT / LTA and vendors. Each of the departments are too siloed up to “protect” their rice bowls and this results in a lot of communication breakdown and problems. Even at management level, you can see the CEO and Chairman taichi their problems to the rank and file workers instead of shouldering the burden.
2. Over-reliance on “new” technology instead of tried and tested methods of timetable. The dynamic signalling system is a total waste of money. Train operators are not given the freedom and responsibility to make decisions. Instead, systems cut off the power to the train whenever something wrong is detected. This is what causes majority of the train / track faults.
3. Failure in planning and execution of new lines. Current NSL and EWL are the only lines connecting north , east and west region of Singapore to the CBD area of Singapore. If either NSL or EWL fail during peak hour, all hell break loose. Compare that to railways of other countries where there are multiple parallel lines running instead of a single line to prevent such catastrophic failure.
Solution (i don’t need a million dollar salary but at least I come up with the solution.)
1. Fire all those who encourage the silo culture. Implement a “flat” culture so that those working on the ground can communicate directly with the people at the top on what is needed to be done to solve an issue asap. Current management needs to go ASAP and we need to hire better executives with RAIL background and knowledge, not MILITARY background.
2. Remove the stupid dynamic signalling system and replace with a WELL DEFINED timetable of trains. Peak hour should have LIMITED EXPRESS trains which carries more carriage than normal trains. These trains will stop at major stations (e.g. Tampines, Jurong, Woodlands, Yishun, Orchard, City Hall and skip stations so that more commuters can be moved in one single journey. Commuters who are travelling to stations nearby can change to a LOCAL train travelling in the opposite station.
For example, if I stay in Tampines and I work at Tanjong Pagar, I take a Limited Express train from Tampines to City Hall. Then I alight at City Hall to switch to a LOCAL train to Tanjong Pagar. Although I have to skip a train, the speed of the limited trains passing other stations will decrease my total journey overall without having too many trains crowding at one station. Train captains should follow the timetable strictly and reach the train station / depart on time.
3. LTA need to plan for parallel lines running to the cities from the North, East and West part of Singapore and implement them asap. This way, people don’t have to rely only on NSL/EWL to get to work / vice versa.
Last but not least, the train fare must be adjusted to match the train fares in developed cities. By underpaying for train services, there is simply not enough revenue to maintain the trains properly. Concessions can be given to locals / people who travel daily to work.
A good solution will be this:
Set all train rides to be at least SGD $2.50. However, if you use the same EZ-link card for payment, the max you can spend a day on the card will be $12.50 per day and $50 / week, $200 / month. Train rides can be 50% cheaper on Saturdays / Sundays if you are using EZ-link card. Additional subsidies (e.g. 30% discount) for all citizens can be implemented easily with the Adult Travel Card (the one with your photo) / Workfare Transport Concession Card (for workfare recipients).