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NEL Fiasco - Strange Decision on NEL Operator

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  • sg_review@yahoogroups.com
    From: (Mr) Law Sin Ling Blk 30, Telok Blangah Rise, #07-324, S.090030 To: TODAY Subject: Strange Decision on NEL Operator Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 09:51:09 +0800
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2003
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      From: (Mr) Law Sin Ling
      Blk 30, Telok Blangah Rise, #07-324, S.090030
      To: TODAY
      Subject: Strange Decision on NEL Operator
      Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 09:51:09 +0800

      This article was sent to TODAY.......

      This is with reference to the article "Govt Open To Single Operator For Rail
      Systems" on the 29 October 2003

      Mr. Yeo (Transport Minister) cited "high operating costs" of duplicate rail
      operators as the reason for the eventual unification of rail operations
      under one single operator. TODAY had however omitted to mention Mr Yeo's
      concern that the NEL operator (SBS) was "bleeding red ink" after a mere 4
      months of operation, as well as his shocking admission that "forcing
      competition does not make sense".

      Mr Yeo's words are all the more regrettable as he had a few months ago
      (August) strongly defended the 2 rail operators policy, despite counter
      advices from certain MPs, and from the public. So the latest "revelation"
      will raise more than just eyebrows.

      Technically, it is incorrect to define the NEL as a competition to the rest
      of the MRT lines. They both operate in different regions of Singapore
      without any overlap of services. It should then be more correct to say
      "forcing diversification" in the business of a bus company, SBS. The latter
      had separately cited, not for the first time, the lower than expected
      ridership as an important contributor to the present loss-making debacle. It
      is apparent that the revenue generated from the NEL is insufficient to cover
      the operating cost.

      Perhaps SBS might like to ponder over the factors affecting ridership, such
      as the high fare price, and the travel preference of the commuters, or even
      the accessibility and availability of the stations. SBS is also perhaps
      being too ambitious in expecting to recoup their investment, and at the same
      time earn a substantial profit from a 4 months old venture.

      This latest abrupt about-turn from the Mr Yeo will leave many Singaporeans
      wondering about the business acumen of the transport ministry. Perhaps it is
      wise that the ministry conducts more in-depth studies, and be more opened to
      public opinions and concerns when constructing future business policies. In
      a true market competition, the ministry should only facilitate, and not
      part-take.

      (Mr) Law Sin Ling
      Blk 30, Telok Blangah Rise, #07-324, S.090030

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

      From: Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Tue Jun 17, 2003 9:49 pm
      Subject: The "North-East Line"Fiasco

      Mellanie Hewlitt
      18 June 2003
      Singapore Review

      After more then a year of testing and many months of delays, not to mention
      cost over-runs and rate hikes, one would have expected the Singapore Government
      (or LTA) to unveil a world class MRT system that ran like clockwork.

      Well, one would be severely disappointed.

      It seems there is no end to the blunders and errors occurring in the NEL.
      And it does not fill a commuter with a sense of security when, even before the
      line is even officially opened, MRT officials have already warned that the ride
      would not be a smooth one and that there would be delays and glitches due to
      bugs in the system.

      According to the Straits Times today, "Software glitches that delayed its
      opening for seven months have not been resolved yet."

      "The system's operator, SBS Transit, said that a passenger who rides the NEL
      twice a day can expect a 15-minute or longer delay every two months, and
      occasional delays of three to four minutes."

      SBS Transit dropped another unpleasant surprise yesterday: Buangkok station,
      like Woodleigh station, will also not open for now. If both were opened, it
      estimates that it would lose as much as $3 million a year because they do not
      have enough traffic as yet.

      This latest revelation is a surprise since part of the "benefits" of a
      driverless system is the reduction in costs and wages that comes with operating
      the line.

      Residents at Buangkok and Woodleigh have been severely disappointed and some
      have written in to express their frustrations. When Mrs Salina Ali moved into
      her Housing Board flat in January, she hoped she would soon be able to take the
      train to work.

      The Buangkok MRT station is across the road from her home in Hougang and the
      convenience of the new North-East Line (NEL) was one reason she had chosen a
      flat in Block 444, Hougang Avenue 6.

      Now, after being disappointed by delays in starting the NEL, she has again been
      frustrated that the Buangkok station will not open with the line on Friday.

      "I am very upset. I was going to use the train to go to work," said the 32-year-
      old sales assistant, who works in Choa Chu Kang.

      Instead of allowing residents to enjoy the benefits of the completed stations,
      LTA and SBS prefer to allow the stations to stand idle and vacant. The
      mentality was quite obvious, why bother as the inconvenience is borne only by
      the general public? Its no skin of their backs.

      With the infrastructure already built and completed, does it really cost an arm
      and a leg to make stops at the Buangkok and Woodleigh stations?

      These, and other pertinent questions will be swept under a thick carpet of
      bureaucracy and red-tape. As usual Singapore Press Holdings and the local media
      conveniently neglected to ask the crucial questions;

      What went wrong?

      Why were there bugs?

      Why were these not rectified?

      Why are commuters paying more for a defective system that is not 100% operative?

      How safe is the NEL?

      What are the daily operational costs involved in running the system?

      Why was it constructed if the costs of operating the driverless system exceeds
      that of a more efficient, safer and fully manned system?

      What is the rationale for such a system?

      One has only to look at the poor record of the driverless LRT as indication
      that a driverless system would not be the way to go. At least not until the
      bugs have been ironed out completely in the simpler LRT system.

      In the interim, and until the driverless LRT has been perfected, it made simple
      commercial sense to stay with a tried and proven system and construct a manned
      MRT line. Instead, the LTA/SBS/SMRT went out on a limb (actually its the tax
      payer's limb) and bit off more then they could chew.

      And we ended up with the fiasco that is the NEL today.

      Ever the mouth piece of the Singapore Government and GLCs, the local media
      stations (owned by Singapore Press Holdings) have taken great pains to sell and
      market this half baked, half finished eyesore to the public.

      Once again Singaporeans are paying a higher price tag for the blunders and
      errors of the government bureaucracy.

      After more then a year of testing and refinements, is this the best that
      combined expertise of
      LTA, SMRT and SBS can manage? If so then it is a real shame.

      'We'd rather be late than be unsafe,' said Mr Ong. He said that the Land
      Transport Authority (LTA), which built the system, is committed to fine-tuning
      it over the next 12 months. If this is indeed the case, the general public
      should have the benefit of free-rides during this "Fine-Tuning Period". Instead
      , Singaporeans are told to put up with higher fares. The logic behind this
      totally escapes me here.

      MP Charles Chong (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) said: 'It would be better for them to
      spend more time to fix the defects than to ask passengers to live with them.
      Commuters can't be expected to accept a lower standard when they are paying
      higher fares.'

      Mr Stephen Foo, a 53-year-old lecturer who lives near Kovan station, said: 'The
      glitches should not happen any more after so many months of trial runs.'

      To add insult to injury, Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong's response to this
      is "the North-East Line fares do not change very much, so over time, the rest
      of the MRT fares should catch up with the NEL." Loosely translated it means be
      prepared for higher rates to apply to the rest of the MRT lines.

      What is the logic of applying higher MRT Rates to the rest of the MRT Network?
      After all the higher operating costs are restricted to operation of the
      Driverless NEL. It looks like another attempt by the government (and LTA) to
      take any convenient opportunity to impose rate hikes across the board.

      For those who are brave enough to try out this more expensive piece of
      bureaucratic government hardware, bring a good book along as well as a crash
      helmet and of cause, take care of your personal finances before stepping onto
      the NEL platform. It may well be a long and final ride.

      ----- Original Message ----------------------------------------------


      Tan Kok Weng
      16 June 2003

      9.45 PM on a Monday night and I have just sat through a long footage of
      Channel I's and Straits Times coverage of the first trial run on the North East
      MRT Line (NEL). Aired exclusively on prime time TV the news segment (telecast
      on national TV networks) compared a trip to Sengkang taken on the NEL, with a
      similiar trip on SBS bus. Needless to say, the interviewers gave a glowing
      report on the efficiency and comfort of the ride.

      It is amusing how in Singapore, given a large enough mouth piece (and enough TV
      stations and new papers), one can change black to white, night into day and
      failure in to success. But seeing past the elaborate song and dance, the fact
      remains that opening of the NEL was delayed not once, twice but three times
      since last October 2002. The project has also exceeded original budget and
      suffered cost-overruns, all conveniently passed to the tax payer and the
      general public in the form of higher fares.

      The reality is that far from being a huge success, the NEL project was a dismal
      failure and national embarassment.

      The failure of the NEL is a revelation of many things. It shows the dismal
      standards set by local authorities. Afteral this is a local project constructed
      on home-ground. If we cannot even complete a project on time and within budget
      in our own backyard, how can we even hope to embark on more complicated and
      prestigious projects overseas?

      The only "new element" in the NEL is that it will be a driverless system.
      However therein lies the logical flaw as the LTA and SMRT have stated clearly
      that the costs of running this line far exceeds the costs of using a
      conventional MRT line.

      If that is the case why embark on this project at all? Why not build it as a
      conventional manned MRT line? This not only saves costs but also creates some
      much needed employment in the hard-hit transport industry.

      No matter how you look at it, the fact remains that there was insufficient
      planning that went into this project. Some one did not crunch the numbers right
      and is now trying very hard (with the help of SPH) to cover up a multi million
      dollar blunder. So much for a clear and trasparent system with accountability,

      The NEL also shows that local GLCs lack the expertise to compete
      internationally with established MNCs. They may be king of their little pond
      when doing business at home (and even here the playing field is not level as
      many GLCs operate under virtual monopolisitic conditions against bona fide
      private sector enterprises).

      The HDB debacle is another recent example of foul-ups and blunders. And it is
      hardly complimentary to local standards when SPH has confirmed that the
      contractors that were in financial difficulties were also admitted to the Top
      50 Enterprises in Singapore.

      "The Straits Times discovered that the contractor also left another job
      unfinished at about the same time: the construction of Admiralty Secondary
      School in Woodlands. The company, registered in 1988, was named one of
      Singapore's 50 best enterprises in 2001. From 1990, it started winning building
      contracts from the HDB and other Government departments."

      On what basis and criterias were these firms accessed? Did anyone in the stat
      board (with the army of PHDs and scholars) even bother to look at the P&L and
      balancesheets of these firms? How could they have made it to the local Top 50
      list at all?

      It really speaks very badly for the govt standards and also explains why most
      of our home grown GLCs cannot compete internationally against foreign entities.

      With the travesty of errors and blunders fresh in their minds, it seems the
      general public also needs reassuarance that the NEL is safe in the first place:

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------

      To: Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com

      Subject: [Sg_Review] Protesting the MRT Fare Hikes For North-East Line?

      Below is a letter that was sent to the Business Times but was never
      published. For a frank, insightful and objective discussion of sensitive policy
      issues, you are encouraged to send your letters to Singapore Review.

      To: singaporeforum@yahoogroups.com
      From:"Narayana Narayana"
      Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 08:51:46 -0000
      Subject: [singaporeforum] Narayana: Protesting the MRT Fare Hikes For
      North-East Line?

      Rejected by BT
      1. We thank Narayana Narayana for this letter.
      2. The relevant BT article follows after the letter.
      3. To discuss this, see
      http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/mb/message.asp?
      webtag=sintercom&msg=1484.1


      Protesting the MRT Fare Hikes For North-East Line?
      By Narayana Narayana
      13 May 2003

      It is surprising that there has been such muted reaction from the
      public to the higher fares that SBS Transit intends to charge
      commuters on its North-East MRT Line. Perhaps they have come to
      realise the futility of protesting.

      "What cannot be cured must be endured" aptly sums up the resigned
      attitude of the public after the last round of public-transport
      hikes. Public dissatisfaction was ground into the dust by specious
      explanations, despite the then already-worsening economic conditions.
      Things are rather the worse now. The commuting public have thrown in
      the towel.

      Any commercial undertaking (and one would reasonably think SBS
      Transit fits into this description) could be expected to make an
      exhaustive 'feasibility' study before embarking on a costly project,
      with due allowance for aberrations.

      Mr. Ven Sreenivasan's article (The Business Times Singapore
      May 9, 2003 Friday) sums up a plethora of unsatisfactory
      contributory factors to explain the need for higher fares,
      viz.,, 'higher operating costs, (how come, even in depressed market
      conditions?), lower population growth in the North-east sector
      townships and low commercial space and advertising returns, high cost
      of running the 16-station all-underground line and covered depot,
      absorption of pre-start-up costs". The list could probably be longer
      to ensure a wide spread, and that the factors are cumulative and
      wholly unforseeable.

      If we accept these excuses at face value, SBS Transit seems to be
      trying to absolve itself of any blame for reading the lie of the land
      wrongly in the first instance. One analyst charitably explains
      that "the economic condition now is very different compared to the
      time when they bid for the line four years ago". There are large
      numbers of the public similarly afffected in this time frame who have
      to go to the wall instead of being given a similar life-line.

      The Public Transport Committee is quoted as saying that "there would
      be no revision in existing SMRT or bus fares".

      The commuting public will certainly be happy to hear the good news.

      But were they not already assured of this when the last hike in fares
      was approved, and the Ez-link cards came into commission?


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------

      From: CHIANG SEOK PHENG (MADAM)
      24 June 2003

      Never a dull moment on my first NEL ride

      I TOOK my first ride on the North-East Line (NEL) at 9 pm on Saturday. After a
      somewhat-confusing walk from the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, involving several
      escalators, some going up, and some down, I made it to the new station.

      I boarded the spanking-new train with several middle-aged women and a family of
      three. After one stop, we were treated to a spectacular display of how well the
      doors had been made. The train stopped for 10 minutes at Farrer Park Station,
      seemingly for no other reason than to show us the doors' ability to open and
      close 10 times rapidly. This was followed by an announcement for passengers to
      alight and board the next train.

      We all alighted and the train started to move off, prompting one of the women
      to comment, 'Now no people in the train, that's why can move.'

      The next train was rather packed. I managed to find space to step in, not a
      moment too soon. The doors closed barely four seconds after they opened,
      separating the family of three.

      The train must have been on a very strict and precise timetable because the
      couple outside banging on it were ignored and left behind as we sped away with
      their child.

      The other passengers in the train must have sensed the operator's unyielding
      schedule and jostled to get ready at the doors even before we reached the next
      station. Imagine their horror when the train pulled into the station and they
      were greeted by a sign stuck on the station door saying, 'Door Faulty. Please
      use next door'. There was a small stampede to get to the next door before the
      four seconds were up.

      The rest of my trip was spent eyeing the doors, trying to guess which might
      correspond to a faulty door at my destination. All in all, it was a very
      interesting ride.

      CHIANG SEOK PHENG (MADAM)

      -------------------------------------------------------------------

      Buangkok MRT delay frustrates commuters
      By Sherwin Loh

      WHEN Mrs Salina Ali moved into her Housing Board flat in January, she hoped she
      would soon be able to take the train to work.

      The Buangkok MRT station is across the road from her home in Hougang and the
      convenience of the new North-East Line (NEL) was one reason she had chosen a
      flat in Block 444, Hougang Avenue 6.

      Now, after being disappointed by delays in starting the NEL, she has again been
      frustrated that the Buangkok station will not open with the line on Friday.

      'I am very upset. I was going to use the train to go to work,' said the
      32-year-old sales assistant, who works in Choa Chu Kang.

      Although Hougang will also have an MRT station, residents of the blocks at the
      junction of Hougang Avenue 6 and Buangkok Drive are within walking distance of
      the Buangkok station.

      Now, says Mrs Salina, she will have to take the bus to Hougang station to use
      the NEL. That means spending more money on transport. SBS service 27 is the
      only bus serving residents along Hougang Avenue 6.

      Some of her neighbours feel let down that SBS Transit, NEL's operator, got
      their hopes up only to disappoint them days before the line opens.

      SBS Transit said there was not enough development around Buangkok station to
      sustain a train station, which has mostly open fields within a 400m radius. To
      the east, construction of homes has only just begun.

      Because of this, Aljunied GRC MP Yeo Guat Kwang feels SBS Transit's decision is
      fair.

      'There is a bus service,' he said. 'I am certain that if demand is there, SBS
      Transit will open the station.'

      But 14-year-old student Vina Misra, who lives in Block 558, says that given the
      years of inconvenience her family has had to put up with, SBS Transit's
      explanation simply is not good enough.

      'We have been living with the construction and the noise. Now, we have to
      travel farther and pay more. The station was the light at the end of our
      tunnel.'

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------

      http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/todaynews/view/774/1/.html
      20 June 2003 0834 hrs (SST) 0034 hrs (GMT)

      The driverless guinea pig:
      It's high-tech, but will it serve commuters well?
      By Lee Han Shih

      Does SBS Transit seriously think commuters are willing to pay high
      fares to ride on its trouble-ridden North East Line (NEL)? More
      importantly, does the government think so?

      Barring last minute snags, the $5-billion NEL will start rolling
      today. But after a seven-month delay which led to mutual finger
      pointing between the operator, SBS, and the Land Transport Authority,
      which built the line, NEL is still full of glitches.

      On Tuesday, SBS told journalists that due to unavoidable problems,
      commuters can expect to be stuck in some dark underground tunnels
      once every few weeks, sometime for 15 minutes or longer. If that was
      not bad enough, the trains would also bypass the Buangkok and
      Woodleigh stations due to lack of demand.

      It is obvious that something has gone terribly wrong with NEL, from
      construction to testing to its handover by LTA to SBS.

      So why isn't anyone willing to admit it?

      LTA, the party most responsible for the whole fiasco, is in the
      process of compensating SBS for loss incurred by the delay. (LTA, of
      course, would not call it compensation, since that would be an
      acknowledgement of its own mistakes. But if LTA has done nothing
      wrong, why is it throwing good public money to SBS? And if it is in a
      mood to throw money, why not spare some for commuters in Buangkok?)

      How about the Public Transport Council? The PTC approved NEL's fare
      structure, which at 69 cents to $1.69 is five to 25 cents higher than
      that of other MRT lines. Did it know about the decision to bypass
      Buangkok station when it approved the fares a few weeks back? If so,
      why didn't it say so? If not, shouldn't it now go after SBS for not
      giving important information?

      The buck, of course, does not stop there. Issues of public transport
      go all the way to the top. What are the comments there?

      Mr Khaw Boon Wan, the Senior Minister of State for Transport (soon
      Health Minister), earlier dismissed complaints about NEL's delay as
      merely a matter of "managing public opinions". What would he say when
      commuters complain about being stuck in underground tunnels?

      There are also mutterings in the Transport Ministry that the
      breakdowns in NEL are "beyond human control". In other words, no one
      is to be blamed.

      Yes, the glitches are beyond human control - but only so because LTA
      has opted to be a guinea pig for something that had never been tried
      anywhere else.

      NEL, the LTA likes to boast, is the world's first fully automated
      underground heavy rail line. It talks proudly about how the
      driverless system is monitored from a central control room. Well,
      that is where the glitches are. Due to some "problems beyond human
      control", the monitoring software will, at some time and in some
      places, lose sight of the speeding trains.

      When that happens, the software will automatically assume something
      is wrong and shut the trains down immediately. Putting the system
      back on line and restarting the trains take time, hence the warning
      to commuters about regular stoppage.

      What is so good about having the world's first driverless heavy rail
      line? To the vendors who supply the system, it is great to test it
      out at someone's expense. Now they can sell an improved version to
      other countries. But to local commuters, it is a bad and expensive
      ride.

      And while LTA can brag about it to other transport authorities, it
      has been blinded by high-tech and has forgotten the first rule of
      applied technology: KISS, or keep it simple, stupid. It has chosen a
      complicated rail line over a simple one and an expensive one over a
      cheaper one. Any engineer worth his salt knows that the more
      complicated a system is, the higher the chance of it breaking down.
      The true test of a good system is not how cutting-edge its equipment
      is but whether it can do what you want it to do.

      On that measure, NEL has failed.

      LTA still talks about how NEL is run by 500 computers which
      continually swop information with each other. This means there are
      500 places where a breakdown can happen.

      Does the the government think that people are well served by a system
      that can break down, and one that might, for profit reasons, stop
      serving any station it chooses? If LTA, PTC and the Transport
      Ministry think NEL is not up to scratch, it is time they say so and
      do something for the commuters.

      ------------------------------------------------------------------

      Mellanie Hewlitt
      21 June 2003
      Singapore Review

      The Straits Times today gave a glowing report of the opening of the NEL with
      pages and pages of coverage.

      At least 4 separate articles were featured in this morning's issue singing
      praises of the glorious NEL.

      But it seems all the end users and commuters of the NEL think differently. In
      recent weeks, there have been a spate of complaint letters sent by the genral
      public concerning what has now been known as the NEL fiasco.

      As usual, SPH (filling the role as the mouth piece of the Singapore
      Government) is doing a bang-up job in terms of damage control and salvaging
      public face.

      But in this instance, the general public has resisted attempts to mute their
      response and feedback. So proliferous has been the e-mails and letters that it
      would be a blatant case of willfull blindness if these were not at least
      acknowledged in part by the local goverment controlled media.

      A print media which fails to adequately address public concerns lacks
      credibility and will ultimately be relegated to the role of a propaganda
      machine.

      Singapore Review brings you some honest feedback from the general public. Read
      the full story below and decide for yourselves;

      -----------------------------------------------------------

      From: TAN SHAO CHONG

      THE NORTH-EAST LINE
      High-tech hype - and it will cost you more

      I REFER to the article, 'N-E Line ready to roll, but expect glitches' (ST, June
      18).

      The North-East Line (NEL) has generated much excitement and anticipation,
      especially for residents staying in the north-east of Singapore. There has been
      much publicity about its high-tech capabilities, such as driverless trains and
      safety features.

      These features are one reason cited by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and
      SBS Transit for charging higher fares.

      On the other hand, we are also hearing comments from top government officials
      as well as senior officers of SBS Transit that the public needs to be mindful
      of potential service disruptions.

      To me, this sounds like a case of trying to have one's cake and eat it as well.
      On the one hand, the public is told that better technology comes with a higher
      price and, on the other, the public is told to be patient and to bear with any
      service disruptions that may occur because of the increased complexity of
      running NEL due to the improved techno-logy.

      This is like a customer walking into a computer shop and being told by the
      salesman that a particular model costs much more because it is of better
      configuration and comes with more sophisticated soft-ware.

      However, the salesman qualifies that the computer may be slower sometimes due
      to the very complex nature of the hardware and software components and that the
      buyer will have to bear this in mind when he purchases it. Would any customer
      want to buy such a product?

      Of course, the customer has a choice and can just walk out of the shop.

      That, unfortunately, is not the case for taxpayers and commuters where NEL is
      concerned.

      My sense is that LTA and SBS Transit are trying to manage commuters'
      expectations so as to minimise the fallout that will occur should NEL go down
      with major problems once it commences operation.

      I do not recall such comments being made when the earlier stages of the MRT
      were rolled out and I presume this is part of the lesson learnt from the fiasco
      over the frequent breakdowns of the Bukit Panjang LRT.

      However, the implication of such comments is that the relevant parties are not
      confident of what they have been doing and needed to take steps to pre-empt bad
      publicity and negative feedback if NEL is not up to expectations.

      Having said that, NEL is already here and there is nothing much the public can
      do. We will just have to live with it and hope for the best. What is more
      important is that we should focus on the lessons being learnt.

      Has LTA, in its drive to come up with a 'world-class transport system', lost
      sight of the fact that, at the end of the day, commuters only want a reliable,
      safe and economical public transport system?

      High-tech products may or may not be the right solution, especially if the cost-
      benefit analysis does not add up.

      TAN SHAO CHONG

      ----------------------------------------------------------------------

      From: HUANG ZHIQIANG

      Why hint at fare hikes?

      I was relieved when it was announced a few months back that transport fares
      would not be raised in the near future.

      However, I read with disbelief the comment by the Transport Minister that
      despite the higher fares on NEL, it would only be a matter of time before those
      on the rest of the rail network 'play catch-up'.

      NEL's high cost of operation is due to it being an automated system, so how
      would the increase in fares on the rest of the rail system come about?

      HUANG ZHIQIANG

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------

      From: JAMES WONG TONG AUN

      LOWER FARES FOR NOW:

      I do not think that it is fair for commuters to pay higher fares to use NEL
      compared to the rest of the rail network when NEL is not going to be as
      efficient. As MP Charles Chong (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) rightly pointed
      out, 'commuters can't be expected to accept a lower standard when they are
      paying higher fares'.

      Instead of taking pains to explain the technical complexity which may result in
      delays, SBS Transit should lower NEL fares until its efficiency can be ensured.

      JAMES WONG TONG AUN


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------

      From: TAN KOK PEOW

      LET PRIVATE BUS SERVICE CONTINUE:

      I live in Punggol and used to travel to work in Shenton Way on Scheme B bus No.
      638, run by private bus operators. It cost only 70 cents for non air-con and 90
      cents for air-con services.

      Because a substantial part of its route overlaps that of NEL, the bus service
      ceased operation with the commencement of train services.

      I was actually looking forward to having a choice between taking the MRT and
      taking the bus to work. For some of my colleagues who are unfortunate enough to
      live near the two NEL stations that were not opened, it means higher transport
      expenses and possibly more time spent commuting. For me, the need to change
      trains, a longer walk from the MRT station to my workplace and home, as
      compared to the bus stop, as well as the higher fares may negate the benefits
      of a faster and more comfortable ride on NEL.

      LTA should allow the private bus service to continue, and not be seen to be
      safeguarding the interest of a company at the expense of commuters.

      TAN KOK PEOW

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      From: GIBSON HO KHIM WENG

      PLEASE OPEN BUANGKOK STATION:

      I refer to the report, 'Buangkok MRT delay frustrates commuters' (ST, June 18).
      SBS Transit said there was not enough development around Buangkok Station -
      which has mostly open fields within a 400m radius - to sustain a train station.

      I would like to point out that beyond the 400m radius there are clusters of HDB
      flats in Hougang that are within walking distance of the station: blocks 436 to
      450 and blocks 530 to 566.

      When the Tanah Merah Station was just opened, there wasn't much residential
      development in the vicinity too. I appeal to SBS Transit to reconsider its
      decision. My wife and I recently bought a house near Buangkok Station because
      of the MRT.


      GIBSON HO KHIM WENG

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      From: TAN MEI PENG (MS)

      WHY THE LATE SHOCK?:

      I am dismayed with the announcement that Buangkok Station will not be opened
      for now. What an unpleasant surprise!

      Does SBS Transit mean to tell us that it became aware of the situation only
      three days before NEL's official opening? Why didn't it announce the decision
      earlier? Why raise the hopes of nearby residents only to dash them?

      It said that if both the Buangkok and Woodleigh stations were to be opened now,
      it would lose as much as $3 million a year because they do not have enough
      traffic.

      It is different for Woodleigh Station because it had been announced earlier
      that it would not be opened.

      SBS Transit said there was not enough development around Buangkok to sustain
      the station, but did it look north, south and west of Buangkok? Aren't there
      enough residents to justify the service?


      TAN MEI PENG (MS)

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