Make it easy for NSmen to take free train rides

As part of the NS50 celebrations this year, all individuals who have performed or are performing national service will be given free rides on public transport on Friday if they wear their uniforms.

While the intentions behind this initiative are certainly good, the execution on the day itself could present several difficulties.

According to official instructions given by SMRT, NSmen who wish to take the LRT free should contact the station staff through the intercom beside the fare gantries, both for entering and exiting the station.

At MRT stations, NSmen have to physically approach station staff, who will then open the gantry for them to pass through.

If participation is enthusiastic, the potential logistical nightmare is obvious.

How will there be adequate staff at each station at any given point in time to deal with the many requests from NSmen?

We will end up with frustrated uniformed men stuck behind long queues.

Given the advent of the warmer months and the thickness of the uniforms, the frustration can only get worse. 

Many NSmen may foresee the immense hassle and choose not to take part in the scheme.

It would then likely lead to lukewarm participation, throwing into doubt the sincerity behind the initiative.

For effective execution, SMRT could consider reserving at least two gantries at each station for the NSmen's entry and exit respectively; only a small handful of station staff will be needed to perform quick inspections and ensure that only properly attired individuals pass through the gantries.

Alternatively, SMRT could consider simply having a free travel day for everyone, which is rather appropriate in view of the reach of NS.

Even though not everyone in Singapore serves NS, the benefits are extended to everyone residing within the nation, regardless of gender or nationality.

Elvis Zhang Haowei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Make it easy for NSmen to take free train rides'. Print Edition | Subscribe