SMRT looking into bus fare dispute involving bus captain who had difficulty communicating

Details of the incident were shared on Facebook by user Fareen Salauddin.
Details of the incident were shared on Facebook by user Fareen Salauddin.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ FAREEN SALAUDDIN

SINGAPORE - Bus and train operator SMRT is "looking into" an incident where its bus captain had purportedly refused to continue a bus service over a fare disagreement with a passenger, said the company in a statement on Sunday (July 23).

Details of the incident were shared on Facebook by user Fareen Salauddin on Saturday, which said the bus captain operating service 969 had not been able to communicate the cost of bus fares for two children.

It is unclear at which part of the bus service, which travels between Woodlands Temporary Interchange and Tampines Interchange, the incident took place.

"If you can't speak English well... at least know the basics," said the Facebook user.

The user also said the bus captain "did not want to continue the journey and all of us had to change to the next 969 bus".

It was unclear from the post how many people were on the bus and who was the passenger disputing the fare.

In response, SMRT said on its Facebook page: "We apologise for the inconvenience caused to all affected passengers."

The company added in its statement that all bus captains attend English classes to improve their ability to understand and converse in the language.

"They are also encouraged to seek help from other passengers if they do encounter communication difficulties. So please help where you can," said SMRT.

The Facebook user also added that one of the children who paid for the bus fare was 0.86m tall.

According to TransitLink's website, children up to a height of 0.9m who are accompanied by an adult may travel for free.

However, later that night, Facebook user Jian Wei commented on the SMRT's Facebook post, saying he had witnessed the incident. 

In his account, the user said the bus captain had requested for the father to pay for the bus fare, as the child was taller than the height limit for free travel. "The father refused and insisted the driver to communicate with him in English," he said. 

"Seeing the situation, one of the passengers actually offered to help translate what the bus driver is saying for the father, but the father told the passenger not to translate and it's the driver's job to communicate with him. I then decided to alight as the whole situation (was) holding up my time." 

He also added that the bus captain may have been given instructions to end the journey due to the dispute, as the latter had been "reporting and communicating with the HQ when I alighted". 

The Facebook post alleging the bus captain's "strike" has been making the rounds on social media, with nearly 2,000 shares on Sunday, and has received a mix of reactions from netizens.

One user, Vince Viknesh J'eg Pillay, said the ability to communicate in English should have been a basic requirement for bus captains.

"It can lead to disastrous consequences should an emergency arise and the driver is not able to communicate with the passengers," the user commented.

However, another user, Mohamad Hisam, wrote: "All the parties have a part to play in situations like this... The issue here is never about nationality, it is about competency and what is required of oneself when presenting himself at work."

As of Tuesday (July 25), the Facebook post can no longer be found, suggesting that it has either been set to private or taken down.