A photo of an elderly man sitting and resting on the floor of an MRT compartment is circulating online. Some have said that the man is sitting on the floor since the MRT train he is travelling on has removed some seats to improve train capacity.
Facebook user Sue Goh, who shared the photo on social media, wrote that the MRT compartment has said that the removal of more seats to boost capacity has had an adverse effect on the elderly who use the trains to travel.
She added that these trains have fewer seats and reserved seats are harder to find since they might be occupied by passengers who may not need them “the elderly can only lower their heads and accept this cruel desolate reality: ‘I am sitting on the ground.'”
In 2008, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) – a statutory board under the Ministry of Transport – said that it will address the overcrowding issue and make modifications to SMRT trains to allow more standing room by having some seats removed.
Revealing that this is a joint initiative with rail operator SMRT, LTA said it will be removing seats based on “feedback from commuters about increased crowding during peak periods.” LTA said that it agrees “whole-heartedly with suggestions to explore adding more carriages or increase train frequencies.”
The statutory board said that it will slash the number of seats in certain trains by as much as 30 per cent. It said: “The objective is to create more standing room in train cabins, so that doorways will be less congested, and commuters will find it easier to board and alight.”
Asserting that while a “majority of commuters” said it was important to have more standing room in the train compartments, LTA acknowledged that this may pose difficulties to people like senior citizens. It said:
“We fully understand that the removal of seats may be an issue for commuters with special needs, such as the elderly, parents with young children, pregnant mothers and the mobility-impaired. Hence, LTA and SMRT have ensured that all train cabins will continue to have seats; even modified train cabins will still have 36 seats each.
“As far as possible, these modified trains will not run consecutively at any station platform, so commuters with special needs who prefer the unmodified trains can still have adequate access to seats.”
Last year, a decade since it decided to remove seats to increase passenger capacity, the LTA announced that it would implement ‘tip-up seats’ on new MRT trains to increase standing space during peak hours.
Train drivers who operate the news trains with ‘tip-up seats’ will keep the seats folded during the morning and evening peak hours to allow for more standing room and unfold the seats during off-peak hours to increase seating capacity.
The initiative received immense backlash from netizens online who rejected the ‘tip-up seats’ innovation as a “stupid idea”.