Transport Minister Raymond Lim (left) stressed that the principal aim is to ‘ensure cleanliness and hygiene on the trains and stations for the benefit of all passengers.’ –ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
‘Thus passengers should finish eating or drinking before entering the MRT station. If they really need to eat or drink for medical or other special reasons, they should approach the MRT station staff,’ he said in a written answer to questions from MPs Cynthia Phua and Lim Wee Kiak on Wednesday.
Madam Phua, Aljunied GRC MP, had asked if passengers could eat sweets on MRT train as some elderly people have to do this to overcome motion sickness.
Replying, Mr Lim said: ‘My Ministry, and I am sure the operators as well, recognise that there could indeed be extenuating circumstances. However, these are exceptional situations rather than the norm. Practically, it would be impossible to comprehensively define such circumstances upfront – they are, by definition, exceptional and should be dealt on a case by case basis.
Under the Rapid Transit Systems (RTS) Regulations, passengers who eat, drink or chew bubble gum in the MRT stations and trains can be fined up to $500, although the offences may be compounded by the Land Transport Authority to lesser amounts such as $30.
This regulation has been in place since the start of MRT services in 1987, to ensure cleanliness and hygiene in the stations and trains, said Mr Lim.
Most passengers comply with the no eating and drinking rule but there is a ‘small but growing group of passengers who do not,’ he said, pointing out that the number of notices of offences issued has risen from 301 in 2006, to 581 in 2007 and 646 in 2008.
In the first six months of this year, there were 281 offences.
‘To put these numbers in perspective, there are nearly 1.5 million trips a day made on our train system. The percentage of offenders is low and most Singaporeans are considerate passengers who do not inconvenience their fellow commuters,’ said Mr Lim.
The train operators decided to step up enforcement recently after a surge in public complaints against eating and drinking in trains, he said.
If commuters really need to eat or drink for medical or other special reasons, they should approach the MRT station staff.
Said Mr Lim: ‘The MRT station staff are trained to exercise flexibility and judgement. Sometimes this may mean granting an exception; other times it may mean saying no. If indeed there are genuine cases of service lapses, passengers can report them to the operators.’
The minister said the rail operators have, over the years, undertaken several public education programmes to encourage gracious behaviour, including not eating or drinking in stations and trains.
For example, SMRT and SBST engage the public through their on-going Learning Journey programmes with primary and secondary schools, the annual SMRT Courtesy and Safety Programme and SBST’s quarterly Community Engagement Programme.
In May, the Public Transport Council launched a public education programme, in partnership with the operators, to promote gracious behaviour on public transport. There are also regular audio broadcasts in MRT stations reminding passengers not to eat or drink.
‘Through such efforts, we hope to raise awareness of the need to be considerate to other passengers. This will help provide a more pleasant travelling experience for all,’ said Mr Lim.