Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Surviving the train crush

Complaints of overcrowding on the trains have escalated over the past few years and reached a crescendo just before the recent general elections. Denials, spins and excuses from the operators and 'authorities' have led to widespread frustration by commuters. The local Net is full of blogs over this issue ad nauseam.

Apparently, the train operators, being public companies, have to ensure that its bottom line is priority.  Even the gahmen gives all out support to ensure that the operations are not running at a loss.

The train operators claimed that the lines are maximized to capacity and it would be difficult to add more trains or increase frequency. With  a burgeoning workforce, the situation can only get worse. Passenger comfort and quality of service don'y seem to be a priority for them to resolve. The proof is simply to go to any station during rush hour. Enuff said.

Yesterday, my sister Stephenie was so stressed out, especially after reading the Oct 11th Stomp article about how commuters were forced to wait till the 4th train passing before being able to board. She was one of those who experienced this twice at Bukit Batok and Jurong East Stations.

Click here to read the Stomp article

I am luckier in that I don't take the train so often nowadays, but I do empathize with my fellow commuters.
Just last week, I had a 5-day assignment at the Ministry of Education at Buona Vista starting at 8 am each morning. That meant I had to join the crowd to get there from Bukit Batok Station, with a transfer at Jurong East Station.

It is extremely difficult to board the trains at Bukit Batok,  being the last stop before the terminal at Jurong East. The train is already filled to the brim and you just hope some students, heading for school in the vicinity, will get off so that you can squeeze into that vacated space.

Next, the train discharges the full load at Jurong East, adding to the crowd already there who have yet to make the connection to the city-bound trains. It's really CHAOTIC!

Transfer at Jurong East Station (pic from TNP)
SMRT recently opened an additional platform at Jurong East, which helps to distribute the in-coming passengers from the Bukit Batok line, but its a zero sum game as the same number of city-bound trains still take the transfer paxes from Jurong East!  It's just less crowding on the platform but not on the trains.

As I am powerless to do anything about the overcrowding, I'll just share what goes through my mind in these situations.

These are my pet peeves on the MRT trains:-

1. No hand holds near the door area.
It's a funny paradox.
They don't provide hand holds near the door area in order to force you further inside the car. But the car is already full and you can only stand near the door area a lot of the time!
You have to be as acrobatic as a gymnast throughout the ride - balancing with the sway, doing knee flexs, toe curls and bum shiftings. All because you have nothing to hold on to.
Passenger safety was never in the minds of the operators.

There's always a crush near the doors as commuters tend not to squeeze once they move 'further in'. So while the door area is packed, it appears that there are actually more space 'inside'.
Commuters also fear that they can't get out easily once they move too far in!

2. Pole leaners and dual hand holders
Inconsiderate passengers who lean on the grab pole for their own support. I normally won't tell them off but instead let them feel my knuckles against their back or arms. Then there are some will will hold on to 2 hanging hand holds.

3. Backpackers.
Idiotic commuters who don't have the sense to remove their backpacks. What's worst is that they are unaware that it's knocking into others. The backpacks only take up more space.

4. Fear of pickpocket or accidental contact.
As I have a habit of carrying my wallet in my back pocket, I have this nagging fear of pickpockets in the crowd. Men also face the awkward problem of where to put their hands for fear of accidental contact and for some lady to scream accusations of trying to be funny with roaming hands. It doesn't really happen but there's always this fear.

5. B O !
Not too bad in the mornings but woe be you in the evening rush hour!

I fear that unless something tragic happens not much will change in the near future.

In my next blog, I'll tell you of my own experiences on the Tokyo rush hour morning trains.

Here is the link to that blog:


  1. It's strange that 10 people get off the train but only 5 can get in...all because passengers don't want to move in. Stressed even before reaching office :(. Legitimately, being S'porean,..I want to complain!!! steph

  2. Complain? ow, you gotta see the other article about tokyo commuter during morning rush hour. It's way way much crowded the the SMRT, but they still could manage the situation without any hassle. So, think about it if you wanna complain about the SMRT.