LTA won't take action against SMRT for chartered trains

Jeanette Tan
Commuters walk along a passageway at a Circle Line station. (AFP file photo)

[UPDATE on 29 August 2014, 9:00pm: The Land Transport Authority said it is not taking action against SMRT over the chartered trains for the students as the train operator ensured there was no impact on normal operations]

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority said that transport operator SMRT acknowledged that prior approval should have been sought for letting Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) charter trains.

SMRT also explained to LTA why the company went ahead with the charter, the government agency said.

LTA said earlier on Tuesday that it is considering “appropriate action” against SMRT for failing to seek permission from the government before chartering five of its Circle Line trains for students from the school.
ACS (I) had reportedly paid roughly $2 per head for five trains to ferry some 3,000 students and staff from one-north station to Stadium, where they watched their ‘C’ division rugby team play to victory against St Andrew’s Secondary in the school final, the first to be played at the new National Stadium.
A report in The Straits Times previously quoted ACS (I)’s principal, Winston Hodge, as saying that trains were a cost-efficient way of getting his students to the Sports Hub since it would otherwise have taken at least 80 buses to transport them all there. Those, in turn, could cause logistical problems and added stress to roads.
Responding to queries from local newspapers on Tuesday evening, spokespersons for the LTA said SMRT is required to seek its approval for “the provision of train services that are not open to the general commuting public”, but did not do so in this case.
“We are looking into the appropriate action to take,” the spokesperson said on Tuesday. “We have also reminded SMRT that its primary focus must be to ensure good service delivery to the commuting public at large.”
SMRT said initially that its chartered trains run "strictly within off-peak hours" and also operate between normal train services.
“Train intervals are maintained at normal service levels at all times,” a statement it released on the matter said, while adding that the train operator had previously chartered trains and transported students for large-scale events like National Day Parade rehearsals.
It also said only one-way services were provided to ACS (I) because the return journey would have taken place during peak hours, according to a report in Today.
SMRT's statement, shared with Yahoo Singapore, also added that requests for chartered trains are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with the schools generally required to be within walking distance to train stations, and their destinations needing to be within walking distance of a station on the same train line.
Pictures of the students on board the Circle Line trains moved quickly around social media, with some users expressing their dismay at the perceived special treatment some schools seem to have, while others praising the idea as being more efficient than chartering near to 100 buses.