5 February 2018
Usually an MC will start off and then invite me to make my remarks. As this session is about the commuter, I am turning things around to be the host instead. After my opening remarks, I will invite a celebrity commuter as our Guest of Honour to show you what it is all about.
So first, a very warm welcome to all our guests and friends from the media.
Ensuring a positive commuter experience has been a key area of emphasis over the years. Since 2014, many new initiatives have been put in place.
You may be familiar with them:
- We have Care Stickers for passengers who are unwell so that other passengers can recognize them easily and offer their seats for them.
- We positioned Care Zones at station platforms so that young children and passengers who may feel insecure using our network can stand at the blue box where station staff can easily identify, monitor and assist if necessary.
- There are Priority Queues at our lifts for those who are mobility challenged to use ahead of others who are able-bodied.
- We installed Charging Points to give a quick power boost to mobile devices when batteries run flat just when we need to make an urgent call.
- Escalator Safety Announcements are made to alert passengers when they step on and off as we know that inattentiveness is the main reason for passenger injuries.
- At our Bus interchanges, we have interactive wayfinding panels, digital displays to show bus arrival times and aids for those with special needs.
These initiatives have been well-received by our commuters. Today, we are introducing several more improved touchpoints to make your journey more convenient and comfortable.
We continue to gather feedback from our commuters on how to improve. Last year we held dialogue sessions with different groups of commuters. We study findings by the Public Transport Council, CSISG and our own Nielsen surveys. This month, we appointed a Chief Commuter Engagement Officer to address commuter issues face on.
Admittedly, we have not always got it right. Sometimes, our trains and buses are too warm, other times, we receive complaints that they are too cold. Our station and train announcements are not always as clear as they could be. Depending where you stand, it can be too loud or too faint. People are annoyed when we do not warn them ahead of time about slower train service because of the speed restrictions that we impose for safety reasons when we are repairing stretches of tracks. Many of these situations are not classified as disruptions because service is still ongoing, but understandably from the commuter standpoint, the journey has been degraded and he would like to know.
From all the feedback received, the biggest bugbear for our commuters is that they do not receive accurate journey information about arrival and waiting times, especially when there is a delay. We understand the frustration, and we will fix this.
Today, that estimate on how long a delay is based on the engineer’s quick initial assessment on how much time he needs to rectify the fault. He tells the Operations Controller, who then sends a tweet out to broadcast the initial time delay.
But at the commuter end, this number is different from what he or she actually experiences. A delay anywhere on the line causes a tail-back upstream that, even after the train or track fault has been fixed, takes time to peel apart the stacked up trains and return them to the normal headway. Worse, that time estimate does not account for the resultant wait time at the congested station platform as a commuter at the back of the queue would have to wait for a few trains before he can actually board.
This is what we hope to resolve with the launch today of the first version of our upgraded mobile app, SMRTConnect 3.0. It will improve the speed and accuracy of travel information. The accuracy of travel arrival information will be enhanced because we are able to tap directly into the train signaling supervisory system for dynamic real-time updates. We will continue to refine this over the coming months to ensure that arrival time accuracy at each destination point is better ensured. The next phase of development for this app will be to tap into data and video analytics to gauge crowdedness levels at stations, as well as information gathered from fare gates and train loads so that we can advise commuters on the estimated wait time to the next available train.
It will be a game changer for journey planning and we hope this will address the overall travel experience of our commuters both during normal service conditions and in the event of a service delay.
But let me stop here. It is better that you hear about this from a commuter himself. It is with great pleasure that I welcome someone you all know - Mr Hossan Leong.