After work yesterday evening, I was heading down to City Hall for dinner before Kit Chan’s The Music Room Concert at the Grand Theatre of the Marina Bay Sands.   I decided to give the newly opened Circle Line a try.

Although it was close to 6pm, Haw Par Villa station was exceptionally quiet.  Alas, the escalator of the station which has just been opened on 8 October has already broken down, but servicemen were nowhere to be seen!

Platform of Haw Par Villa MRT station.  I didn’t seem to see any seats for passengers waiting for MRT.

To get to City Hall, I had to take the Circle Line to Harbourfront station (4 stations’ ride), transfer to North East Line to get to Outram Station (which is just one station away) and then change to East West Line to City Hall which is another 3 stations’ ride away.  The journey was smooth although it got extremely crowded from Outram Station onwards.  For a moment during the transfers when I stood looking for the directions at the interchange stations, I suddenly felt as if I was in Japan!  But I knew I was not.

For those who have been to Japan, you would know that Japan has very good and extensive rail systems (subway, train and shinkansen) which made it the most convenient and the commonest means of public transport in the country.  However, it can also be complicated – far more complicated than our MRT system here – if you are not familiar with it.  Some of the stations in the major cities are also very huge, so huge that one can easily lose his/her ways in the stations.  DS and I had experienced that, and we even had to re-purchase our tickets because we lost our way and could not catch the train on time.  That was something we could not forget about our holiday in Japan.

Subways and trains in Japan can be extremely crowded too, especially during what they called rush hours (i.e. peak office hours).  However, never a single time during my 7 trips there did I feel uncomfortable travelling on it.  Why was it so?

I concluded that it all boils down to one thing – commuters’ behaviour.

One very distinct observation I had made while in Japan was the commuters’ initiative to queue up for the trains on the platforms.  While in Osaka, I was so impressed that the commuters, queued in twos, even automatically split into two rows to make way for the alighting passengers, and they would wait for the passengers to alight first.   I was out of words when I saw this one morning at one of the vary packed platforms of the Osaka station.  What a good behaviour and I thought it is only right for people of a developed country and a civil society to behave so.  Over here in Singapore, despite all the courtesy campaigns, many commuters continue to behave very poorly – they don’t bother to queue, and what makes it even more disgusting is their “kiasu” behaviour in rushing into the MRT without even waiting for the alighting passengers to get out first.   There were many times I actually had to tell the people to make way but they often turned a deaf ear to such requests. I also get annoyed by the fact that there is also this group of commuters who would rush to an empty seat without making any due considerations for the senior citizens, pregnant women, or the handicapped.  Some seated ones even ignore these groups of people by pretending to sleep!  How very sad!

While travelling on trains or subways in Japan, if you understand the language, you will also notice the constant reminders for the commuters to turn their phones to Manners mode (or we call it Silent mode).  I also noticed that generally, people take such reminders seriously.  And even if they really have to speak on the phone, or travelling with colleagues, friends or family members, they will speak very softly.  This again is a very considerate commuter behaviour which is totally lacking in Singapore.  Yesterday evening was one good example.  Two Filipino ladies were sitting next to me from Haw Par Villa Station.  The moment they sat down, they started talking so loudly and non-stop.  I actually signalled them to keep quiet.  Wow, that was very brave of me, wasn’t it?  But they ignored me completely and continued to chat away loudly!  I also find it very annoying when people talk loudly on the phone in MRT or buses, as if they want the whole world to know the content of their conversations!  How I wished SMRT would adopt the good practices of the Japanese rail companies and make better effort in making our MRT rides a more pleasant and comfortable experience.

Of course, there is also this group of people who would openly eat in MRT, despite the fact that eating is not allowed.

Why can’t many of our commuters be considerate and gracious? Aren’t we a developed country and a civil society?  Seriously, something is wrong somewhere!  Is it due to the failure of our government, our education system or the upbringing?

Am I being too idealistic?


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