“Bus Captains do attend English classes” – SMRT apologises for driver who went on strike after being unable to communicate in English


SMRT has apologised to all affected passengers for the inconveniences they faced when the bus driver of bus 969 refused to drive after two young children below the age of 7 were forced to pay the bus fare and the driver was unable to tell the children or their guardian how much the bus fare was in English.

One of the passengers, Fareen Salaudin shared on Facebook that all the passengers had to exit the bus and board the next bus because of the driver’s strike. The driver is believed to be a Chinese national.

Although her post has since been removed, SMRT has gone on record on the social networking website to assure commuters that they are looking into the matter.

The organisation asserted that their drivers do attend English language classes, before appealing to commuters to help drivers if they experience communication difficulties.

“Some of you may have come across the post of an SMRT Bus Captain refusing to continue the operation of bus service 969 over a fare disagreement with a passenger due to communication difficulties.
“We would like to assure the public that we take such feedback very seriously and we are currently looking into this matter.
“We apologise for the inconvenience caused to all affected passengers.
“We would also like to reassure that our Bus Captains do attend classes to improve their ability to understand and converse in English. They are also encouraged to seek help from other passengers if they do encounter communication difficulties. So please help where you can. Thank you.”

Some of you may have come across the post of an SMRT Bus Captain refusing to continue the operation of bus service 969…

Posted by SMRT on Sunday, 23 July 2017

SMRT did not comment on possibly revising its child bus fare model, which many netizens called on the organisation to look into following the incident, as the children who were forced to pay a fare were only two and four years old.

Children under the age of 7, below the height of 0.9m do not have to pay any bus fare, while children of the same age between the height of 0.9m and 1.2m have to pay a student bus fare if they do not have a child concession card.

Children who are below the age of 7 but are above the height of 1.2m are required to pay an adult bus fare if they do not have a child concession card.

Fareen claimed that at least one of the children who was asked to pay a fare was only 0.86m, slightly below the height a which the child is required to pay a fare.

She had written on her page:

“If you can’t speak English well… at least know the basics. You can’t come to our country & expect us to speak your language. Brainless. And as for you SMRT.. Number 1, please send your FOREIGN drivers for a basic English Speaking course to interact with passengers who can’t speak in Chinese. Number 2, please revise your “Child Bus Fare” requirements.. now year 2017 going 2018 already.. All children below 7 years are tall already.. So please uh..Last pic is one of the 3 kids that have to pay for the bus fare.. as measured, she is only 86cm.”

SMRT bus driver refuses to continue driving during trip after being unable to communicate in English


  1. Attending doesn’t mean conversant. How about getting them attend at least 90 hours of conversational English and to pass Workplace Literacy as a requirement to work here?

  2. This would revive 2 ailing industries at the same time, training and language skills after all isn’t that what the 2 huge training centres(Devan Nair Institute, Lifelong Learning Institute) were built for?

  3. Let them take the PSLE English test and make sure they pass the exam lahhh…
    make that the minimum requirement to apply ANY Job in Singapore..!
    My personal freaking experience when I boarded a SBS 105 service and ask the Bus Captain, who was,obviously a PRC, whether that bus passes by Gleneagles Hospital..? He looked at me blankly and mumbled something in Mandarin while shaking his head…
    One fruitseller aunty ( Local Chinese ) at Tanglin Halt Chap Lau market speaks better Conversational English than any of these PRCs….and Malay and Hokkien and Cantonese..( she is so interesting to have conversation with..you pick any of the languages mentioned above and she’ll happy to speak with you jovially)

  4. Even if u dont understand manners you shoùld have good manners and be a bully….if you jokers at the company can see the difference then you are just as bad…for goodness sake wake up and teach yr drivers that they are providing a service to paying passengers and its not a free ride….knb slap yr faces

    • Attention for those with various views. English is the language of communication for business and other public affairs. The PRCs are mistaken thinking that everyone speaks Mandarin here. If their employers have not corrected this misconception , they are to blame. Other than that, if you cannot communicate verbally in some basic English pertaining to your job, then you should not be working here.

    • Just send them back where they come from……why the need to upgrade their skill to compete with SG’rean ? , enough of “Open leg policy ” ……it was never the Singaporean workers being lazy quitting their bus driver job but were edged out gradually with the influx of these well beloved FTs of Pinky n gang !

  5. Ask them upgrade ley. Workfare Mah.!why only Singaporeans need to upgrade to get a job and foreigners can just get a job anyhow and commuters are expected to help. I don’t get a job and tell my boss that don’t worry I can’t speak the language but other customers can translate for me.

  6. The problem with some of these PRC FTs is that they expect the local to speak in their language. It is their mentality that the local can’t help. If these FTs are willing to learn, they can learn at an amazing speed. My thought…Cheer!!!

  7. This fucker is more at fault for being such a dick for holding the passengers hostage (with his drama) than not being able to speak English. The former is a work behavioural issue, for which he should be fired and sent back.

  8. SMRT said that their drivers attended English classes and had been instructed to ask the rest of the passengers for help if they had communication problems. The poor driver must have encountered a bus full of passengers who could not speak or understand English like him and couldn’t get them to help him out. What a coincidence !

    • this is not call helping. this is a company being irresponsible. given that their ceo is paid tons of money, they come out with a policy that expect passagers to help with translation work, how dangerous is that in time of emergency. If u fail to see others point then just too bad.

    • Many FTs and FWs have this mentality that they are better than us Singaporeans and I repeat ” Singaporeans” and they are above our laws protected by the authorities because they are foreign.

  9. Si they attend English classes and yet they still failed to communicate in basic English. . Its either their classes are damm lousy or the driver themselves din’t really understand or lazy

  10. SMRT can go about finetuning their bus captains english proficiency till they can hold simple work related conversation with passengers. I am more concern with such ‘strike’ attitudes demonstrated by him. Hope he is not bringing his hometown attitude here, this is something we don’t need here.

  11. This shouldn’t even make news.

    Bus driver is new to the country and language. Give him some time to adapt.

    Just like how some Singaporeans who are taught English and Chinese from primary school but can’t speak both languages properly to be understood!

    And for the rest of the passengers onboard, is it so difficult for you to be a little more helpful and help out the situation!?

    • He made the news as he was adamant and went on strike instead of performing his job while on duty. A case of incompetence and terrible work attitude

    • Kareen Lee he panicked! And I’m sure the passengers onboard were not exactly helpful either. So he shuts down.

      However if the remaining passengers were to help in the situation instead of taking photos and making it news on social media, everyone can move on with their day.

      While I agree the bus driver need improvement, the person who posted this could do differently to help the situation.

    • Maybe we can all start posting on social media whenever we meet people who cannot communicate properly in English and Mandarin regardless local or foreigner, the language proficiency will improve in our citizens?

    • Clarence Pan that’s for smrt to handle with their own staff. What business is this of outsiders?

      The public can help to highlight the issue but it’s nobody business to persecute.

      This is turning into another Singaporean against FT issue. I’m sure no one appreciate being done the same when they screw up.

      Does anyone like it when some FT persecute you on social media when you screw up?

    • Michael G R Lum
      Most of the PRC carried GPS phone. Don’t think he needs my help. Beside, he can always call his ops centre for help. I wonder if you are in that bus will you practice what you said if you are sitting for an important appointment and if you are running late for it? I wonder.

    • We speak diff language bro Michael G R Lum. We took public transport to go places but you took plane and jump out of plane to go around. So cant compare. Hahahha

    • Peter Lim if I’m in bus and I’m rushing to an appointment, yes I would do it. At least then the bus will move on and I have a good chance of reaching my appointment!

      He shuts down and stop driving, the time wasted to wait for the next bus could mean I will be late!

      It’s a no brainer what has to be done.
      Taking pictures with the phone and posting on social media to kick up a fuss IS NOT gonna make it better

    • Zai Tandel well that’s the thing. We may speak different languages but a bus load of people, none of them speak English and Mandarin to translate effectively?

      Besides I’m not comparing, just highlighting what can be done instead. Taking photos with handphone and make it social media news is not the solution

    • Peter Lim I didn’t say you are stupid. I said what you said is stupid.

      And I’m not asking for people to help now. I’m merely expressing my view that people on the bus that day could have been understanding and helped out instead of taking pictures to post on social media to make it news.

      Since you did not understand what I wrote, I’ll forgive your ignorant and for calling me Moron. Besides if you don’t like what I said, you can ignore instead.

      Unless you pride yourself in saying stupid things and think that hit soft spots.

    • Michael G R Lum
      Remember, you are the one wanted people to help him. I didn’t offer myself. Read my post before you start calling others stupid. If like what you said, this post shouldn’t be here then you shouldn’t be posting anything too, morons.

    • Peter Lim I’m sure you can relate to the person who posted the incident on social media coz you said it yourself, you wouldn’t offer to help.

      So I know what kind of person you are too.

    • Back in the days when I first entered Singapore and started studying here at 9, I couldn’t speak English or Malay(dad is Chinese Portuguese and mum is Indian Malay), became a citizen through neutralisation.
      The only language I can speak and write fluently was mandarin, everyone around the school helped me. The teachers always do a direct translation, I know it was tough for them switching from English to mandarin but everyone helped, nobody hissed at me by saying “look at this foreigner, come here but don’t know speak English” . I was welcomed but I see Singapore now, everyone becomes mean.

    • Alexa Cher-Alizee Elfarah Lee my point exactly! But now everyone just want to hiss and make it a big deal on social media highlighting such incidents when they can help instead!

      Now some Singaporeans just want to criticize but their language proficiency ain’t that fantastic

    • rubbish. He should not have been given the job in the first place. THere are other neighbours eg the Philippines and india, where more people can speak English of a higher quality. There is no excuse for hiring someone who cannot speak English to work in the service sector in a country where the vast majority of people speak English. He should be fired and put on a plane back to china at the earliest possible opportunity.

    • Michael G R Lum
      No, you don’t know me and you never will.
      I have a qualified driving license to drive a bus. And I actually can as long SMRT allow me to driver their bus.
      To offer one help must be willing. But that bus driver stop and protest and chase every one off from his bus? You think I will still help this type of people?
      I don’t I am smarter then anyone here. But I think you aren’t too.

    • Elijah Mikaelson have you checked if the people from Philippines and India want to do the job?

      They can speak English proficiently that means they want better jobs than a bus driver!

      Ok fire him, put him on the next flight back to China, who would you suggest be filling that vacancy!?

      Oh one more thing, the Indian and Filipino who can speak English so well, drives a bus and encounter a Mandarin speaking only local elderly, what do you think will happen? Which party should learn Chinese?

      Do you know it’s easier to learn the English language than Chinese!?

    • Peter Lim so it comes down to IF smrt allows to or not. Well do you think they will? Will the insurance cover you who is not their staff?

      If you were on that bus and you offered to do the translation to help in the situation then the bus driver would not stop driving and chase everyone off the bus.

      But because you would not help a PRC, then it would lead to that happening.

      That’s why like I said from the beginning, posting the incident on social media would not help but helping to translate would.

      You can only assume if I’m smarter or not but that’s not the point here. But it’s rather stupid to belittle yourself and think you’re not as smart as anyone else.

    • Paul Leong well go do it! Of late I still see recruitment poster for drivers at bus interchanges. Perhaps if more local like you are willing, we would not need to hire foreign nationals.

    • Michael G R Lum
      There are people who try to help in the first place u. And I was not even there, so who is the one that being talking stupid here? And it’s seem that you didn’t mention that the bus driver chase everyone out from the bus action was wrong. You took only a one side stand and left the rest of the people.

    • Michael G R Lum there are a billion people in india. Have you been to Delhi/Bombay? People working in shopping malls can speak english, sometimes even better than the average singaporean.

      Also you are right. THey would probably want/have better jobs. In that case smrt/sbs should quit being stingy and pay more. And no dont tell me that they’d have to raise fares because of that. They are getting free buses from the taxpayer, and are still profiting of us.

      “Mandarin speaking only local elderly, what do you think will happen? Which party should learn Chinese?”

      The elderly can get someone to translate for them, and not inconvenience everyone else by having a bus driver who ONLY speaks chinese. ALso, what a life wasted if you are 80 years old and couldnt be bothered to learn the lingua franca of the world.

    • Elijah Mikaelson so i assume all 80 years old in your country speaks several languages fluently?

      It’s a reality, if a company need to pay their staff more, they will have to make more money, whose money do you think they will be earning?

      It’s simplicity to think the way you do. The real world doesn’t work like that. And do not compare singapore with our neighbors or the rest of the world, what they have and what we should have because we also do not have a whole heaps of problems they have.

  12. Almost most Food courts are attended and served by Foreign Chinese and they speak with me in Chinese deliberately and I am a Indian ; is she or Him COLOUR BLIND ?

  13. Not sure of the actual scenario, but based on what was reported, the incident smacks of bad attitude by the bus driver. As many already commented, he does not have the right to stop the bus service midway and disrupt all the passengers’ schedules. And it’s not like he’s Russian… there are a lot of passengers who can help him translate between Mandarin and English. Why didn’t he seek help from the others onboard?

  14. Rediculous employing cheap cheap labour to compete with our true bro and sis of Singapore and yet SMRT had tge cheek to tell Singaporean to help thier cheap staff and in return to make more money, is it right Mr.S MATi from smrt

  15. There would have been passengers that can help the driver translate. I did this before for tourists who can’t communicate with PRC drivers. So it’s all about attitude. So much c & b s excuse.

  16. Failed policies. All foreign workers should passed their English lesson on their own land before working in Singapore. We are not paying taxes for them to learn English here. That would be fair enough.

  17. SMRT will come up with lots of reason….
    Attending English classes does not mean they are conversant. ….come on SMRT this is not the first language barrier incident and been ongoing. ….still wanna give same reasons

  18. It’s an issue of an arrogant attitude without passion and kindness over a minor (Children) issue of few cents by a public listed company staff!

    Beside the arrogant driver attitude… what about SBS policies as directed to their crew on such incident with compassionate dealing or as what the driver had done in this issue?

  19. They should pass the English course to be in service front . Not attend ! There is no way that we can learn a English conversational by just attending a 8 week course . They need to go for wpln to pass some requirements den they are to work in service line .

  20. I would rather a skill and safe driver then just knowing English. Look and see how many of the older drivers that suffer a heart attack when driving. If there is difficulty in hiring due English as a must in proficiency, then expect to see more elderly drivers the next time you board a bus.

  21. Driving bus can be very stressful. Give him another chance. I am sure he will learn for this unpleasant episode and improve. Give and take. Live and let live. Make the world a more pleasant place.

  22. Lesson to learn, cannot speak Mandarin or the language of foreigners, cannot take public transport. Bend backwards, stoop, and cower in the growing force of FTs.

  23. Following in the footsteps of Fareen, her English is not that perfect either. Let’s take it out of context, post it on social media and persecute her too!

    She’s Singaporean? Educated in English since kindergarten and she can’t write properly! That makes her worse!

    And she is SO HELPFUL! She takes the time to take photos but do not help to translate between passenger and driver!?

  24. I don’t understand why fellow Singaporean commuters in that bus did not help the driver? I don’t see the driver not able to speak English is a problem but the passengers who know both languages did not help out to translate the poor driver.

  25. Just now I experienced another prc driver, the bus was full and he told the Indian race passenger to come in and don’t stand too close to the door in mandarin… who will understand u…

  26. Why make life difficult for people who come all this way To make a living? So what is the fuck u know a few English! U ass hole, may god has mercy on your fucking soul!

  27. Singapore has 4 official languages.Mandarin is one .Singapore population is 75%chinese.Most will know some basic mandarin.Yet not 1 chinese passenger help to translate??

  28. An old joke.
    An old lady boarded a bus and asked the bus conductor whether the was passing Holland Road. He told her “yes” and she found a seat. The bus got more crowded and people blocked the door of the bus. The bus conductor urged them to allow other passengers to alight. The old lady hurriedly got up from her seat and alighted. She thought she had heard the bus conductor say Holland Road. Actually, he had said, “ho lang lok” (hokkien for let people alight).
    We have come a long way from those days when hokkien was the lingua franca that everyone understood.

  29. In another report, commuters on board did help to translate, it’s that idiotic father who refused to pay his children’s fares making things difficult for the driver. I think language isn’t the issue here, evading the fare is.

  30. There’s once i asked d driver (jus to confirm as not 100% sure) if the bus pass by XXX bldg, he straight away waved his hand “no”. So I alight n check the information board, end up tats d only bus tat goes. Really angry!!!

  31. Above all that is said… If u going on strike u deserve to be put in jail. Furthermore u are paid to do ur work in a public services industry. I believe people in the bus did help to try solve the issue…. Not paying fare is wrong but strike to inconvenience all other paying passengers is BS!

  32. Kumar as you know Singaporeans selfish attitude! Will not work!!
    Don’t blame the commuters the govt did nothing to educate the Drivers. They only speak and understand mandarin only.!
    I’ve witnessed several of these incidents myself.

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