'Little things' can ease commute, says PM Lee

Social graces like giving up a seat and queueing can make journeys more pleasant: PM Lee

Commuters can do many little things to make journeys more pleasant even as they await improvements to public transport infrastructure to be completed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Speaking at the opening of the Downtown Line Stage 1, he urged commuters to give up their seats to those who need them more and queue for trains instead of jostling at the doors to enter.

Citing train passengers in Tokyo and Seoul as positive examples, he said he is glad that more Singaporeans are giving up seats for others, and queuing even at crowded stations such as City Hall. Displaying such social graces makes commuting more pleasant, he said.

The six-station, 4.3km Downtown Line 1 begins operating today from Chinatown to Bugis.

The trains boast several new features, including priority seats with bright designs. Referring to the latter, Mr Lee said: "Once in a while, you find a young man pretending to be asleep when a pregnant lady is standing by or an old gentleman.

"So, just to remind them before they fall asleep not to use that chair, the trains on the Downtown Line have now got special chairs. There is no reason you won't notice when you sit down there."

The issue of graciousness has come to the fore in recent years, amid a steady growth in ridership that often leads to overcrowded trains and buses.

Mr Lee noted that the Government is continuing to invest in public transport infrastructure to make Singapore a more convenient, business-friendly city, and to raise the quality of life.

In the immediate term, the ongoing Bus Service Enhancement Programme has helped bring down waiting times and improve bus service standards.

The investment of more resources to boost the existing MRT network is paying off, as service levels and reliability are improving. More trains are on the way, and the signalling system is being upgraded so commuters can enjoy a more comfortable ride.

"You still have an interruption from time to time... but if you look at the statistics and trends, steadily but surely, we are improving things," he said.

The Downtown Line 1 opening marks the start of plans to double the rail network to 360km by 2030. Future lines include the Thomson Line, Eastern Region Line and Cross Island Line.

By 2030, the rail network will be larger, denser and more integrated than Hong Kong and New York today, Mr Lee said. "I hope you will be patient, you will support what we are doing, and you will enjoy the progress and the services in the network year by year."

He recalled the debate in the early 1980s on whether Singapore should build a train network at all. The Government eventually decided to go for a combination of buses and trains.

Commuters can ride on the Downtown Line 1 for free until Jan1. They will have to use their fare cards to exit at a Downtown Line interchange station and enter it again to ride for free along the six-station stretch.