All-time high: 52m train rides in May

Leong Wee Keat, Today Online 17 Jun 08;

A COMBINATION of rising costs — fuel, parking and Electronic Road Pricing — has made senior sales executive Darrell Choo think twice about turning the ignition key in his car.

While he still drives to his office at Suntec City, the 30-year-old has turned to public transport, especially trains, when going out to meet clients. “My trips are usually short so I can still stand the crowded trains and buses,” said Mr Choo.

Rising costs for motorists is partly why rail ridership hit record levels for the second time in less than six months. SMRT, which operates the North-South and East-West lines, saw commuters making 41,964,448 train trips last month — a 0.08-per-cent increase from its previous all-time high in January.

SBS Transit, which runs the North-East line, saw some 10,540,700 passenger trips last month. It has seen ridership climb from a daily average of about 285,000 last April to over 340,000 last month.

Both operators say the hike can be attributed to many factors, such as a change in travel patterns, population growth, employment growth and the Government’s push for more people to take public transport. “The rise in petrol prices could also be a contributing factor as some motorists switch to public transport,” added SBS Transit spokeswoman Tammy Tan.

With more passengers, have train rides and loads become unbearable? SMRT says the addition of over 500 train trips last month on weekdays — just before and after the morning and evening peak hours, lunch hours and evenings — has been effective in reducing the average train load to “not more than 1,200 passengers”.

Regular train commuters that Today spoke to say the increased frequency would be more useful during the peaks themselves. They also suggested more train trips during weekends and holidays.

With taxi fares rising, store manager Liu Zheng Yi noticed that trains are “quite crowded” with families heading out at weekends. He said: “While we may not pay for the extra comfort, you also don’t want trains to be packed, and with kids crying loudly.”

Some relief could be in sight. From Saturday, commuters travelling on weekends can expect SMRT trains to arrive every five minutes. This means up to 106 more train trips on Saturdays and up to 65 more on Sundays, SMRT added.

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