ACS(I) train charter: SMRT urges schools to take trains during off-peak hours

SINGAPORE - Despite some negative feedback from commuters and the possibility of a penalty by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), SMRT is encouraging more schools to charter trains from them during off-peak hours should they need to transport a large group of students.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Thursday, SMRT's managing director Lee Ling Wee said: " All things considered, we feel the effort was genuine and worthwhile as it transported a large number of students efficiently and safely."

But Mr Lee noted that the operator would in the future keep the relevant authorities updated on such arrangements.

In the past two days, SMRT has received some flak from netizens after it allowed Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) to charter five trains to ferry 3,000 students to the National C Division rugby final at the new National Stadium. LTA had said on Tuesday that it would take "appropriate action" against SMRT for not seeking its approval before providing this private service.

While SMRT acknowledged that it should have sought prior approval from LTA, it emphasised that it was not the first time that it had provided such services.

"The charters are not without precedent. Tens of thousands of students from many schools have experienced similar charters done in support of National Education shows in recent years - all moved efficiently and safely and without fuss. No permission was sought from LTA in these charters," said Mr Lee.

As to comments from members of the public on why SMRT was able to pump in extra trains for this purpose but not when commuters complain of crowded trains, Mr Lee explained that the trains used had been withdrawn during off-peak hours due to low passenger loadings.

"While the current train fleet is insufficient to meet commuter demands during morning and evening peak periods in the operation of the Circle Line, the overall average train capacity utilised throughout the day is only 20 to 30 per cent. Hence, there is excess capacity during off-peak hours to cater for private charters," he said.

He said that he was "grateful that the school informed us beforehand" as this gave SMRT time to make operational scheduling decisions and minimise impact to other commuters.

He noted that all stations along the line remained open to other commuters and trains ran at their usual frequency.

"The story may have been different had 3,000 students descended on the Circle Line with no prior notice at the same time without crowd control measures in place, catching commuters and our station staff by surprise," he said.

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