SINGAPORE - Transport operator SMRT's decision to allow Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) to charter five MRT trains to ferry some 3,000 students to a rugby match has sparked a debate.
Some netizens were against the move, saying public transport should not be chartered for private use. Others, however, have praised the innovative idea, saying taking trains was a better idea than hiring close to 100 buses which would cause both added stress to the roads and logistical problems.
We sum up what the various parties have said so far about the controversy:
1. ACS(I): Faster, more cost efficient to charter trains
It was first reported on Aug 25 that ACS(I) had chartered five MRT trains to ferry some 3,000 students to the Schools National C Division rugby championship final on Aug 26. The match was played between ACS(I) and St Andrew's Secondary at the new National Stadium.
The school said it was more cost efficient to charter trains than buses. It would take at least 80 buses to ferry the students, and this could cause traffic congestion and logistical problems.
2. SMRT: No impact on other commuters, not the first time it had worked with schools to charter trains
Explaining its decision, SMRT said chartered trains run between normal train services and strictly within off-peak hours. It added that it had previously worked with schools to charter trains and transport students for large-scale events such as National Day Parade rehearsals.
3. LTA: SMRT should have sought approval, could face possible sanctions
Weighing in on the controversy, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Aug 26 that SMRT should have sought approval before allowing ACS (I) to charter the trains, and that the transport operator could face possible sanctions for not doing so.
4. SMRT: Yes, we should have sought approval
On Aug 27, LTA said SMRT has acknowledged that it should have sought prior approval. SMRT has also explained to LTA why they went ahead without getting approval in this case, said an LTA spokesman. SMRT did not respond to queries from The Straits Times.
5. SMRT: We encourage more schools to charter trains, but we will keep relevant authorities updated
In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Aug 28, SMRT said that despite some negative feedback from commuters and the possibility of a penalty by the LTA, it is encouraging more schools to charter trains from them during off-peak hours should they need to transport a large group of students.
But it added that it would in the future keep the relevant authorities updated on such arrangements.
6. LTA: No further action will be taken against SMRT
On Aug 29, LTA said in a statement that no further action will be taken against SMRT, noting that the transport operator had taken steps to ensure that normal service was not disrupted.
It also responded to SMRT's claim that it had previously worked with other schools to charter trains for large-scale events such as national education shows, without having to seek prior approval from LTA.
7. Creative idea or sending wrong message?
Meanwhile, this is what some readers, who wrote in to The Straits Times Forum page, say about the issue: