Waking up earlier, or skipping train altogether

Junior college student Christian Gultom has been waking up 20 minutes earlier, at 5.40am, to allow for any delays on his train journey from Novena to Yishun.
Junior college student Christian Gultom has been waking up 20 minutes earlier, at 5.40am, to allow for any delays on his train journey from Novena to Yishun.

For the past few months, junior college student Christian Gultom, 19, has been waking up 20 minutes earlier every day, at 5.40am. This is so he has more buffer time for his train journey from Novena to Yishun stations.

Mr Gultom, an Indonesian who has been studying in Singapore since 2012, reckons that the MRT trip is about 30 minutes long, but can take an extra five to 10 minutes more on occasion. He estimates that he encounters such delays on three out of every 10 trips.

"There were also two incidents when the delays were really bad, and the train trip took 50 minutes. I was late for school but so were 40 other students, so the teachers let us off," Mr Gultom said.

Setting aside extra buffer time means a little less sleep for him. On days when the trains run smoothly, he gets to school early and spends the time taking a nap, revising for a test or chatting with his friends.

For engineering director Ng Guan Hong, cycling beats taking the MRT to get to work - despite having a station just a five-minute walk from his home. He tried to take the MRT to work but found the crowds a turn-off.

By MRT, Mr Ng, 47, would have to ride the North-South Line from Bukit Gombak to Jurong East, transfer to the East-West Line and travel to Buona Vista, then switch to the Circle Line to reach Kent Ridge station, near his office at Science Park. "The trains are very packed in the morning, and at Bukit Gombak, I had to wait for two trains to pass before I could get on," he said.

Mr Ng estimates the trip by MRT could take up to an hour; on his bicycle, it could be 50 minutes. It is a sweaty commute but his workplace has shower facilities. "I may consider taking the trains if they are less crowded."

By the middle of next year, the signalling systems of the North-South and East-West lines are expected to be fully upgraded. This would allow trains to arrive at 100-second intervals instead of the current 120 seconds, increasing capacity and reducing congestion.

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2017, with the headline 'Waking up earlier, or skipping train altogether'. Print Edition | Subscribe