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Airshow Boo-boo February 27, 2008

Posted by hafizbam in Transport Events.
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TIB1044A of Woodlands Depot

From the economic point of view, the inaugural Singapore Airshow 2008 held over the past week has been a roaring success, with billions of dollars worth of investments in the aviation and supporting industries inked between various aerospace firms, both local and foreign.

But based on feedback and reviews pouring in now that the dust has started to settle, the experience of the visitors to the show over the weekend was nowhere near pleasant, the main bugbear being transport.

Unlike the previous Asian Aerospace airshows in 2006 and 2004 when SBS Transit double deckers were deployed to ferry the masses from Pasir Ris Central to the airshow site, the much sought after charter was surprisingly won by SMRT Buses this time round. There were tell-tale signs days before the event itself that SMRT has been engaged for the shuttles, as a number of its buses from across its three depots have been fixed with red strips bearing the words “SMRT welcomes participants to the Singapore Airshow”.

And as past experiences suggest, it was indeed chaos waiting to happen. On Saturday, only a little over 40 buses were deployed, and visitors had to queue for miles, and I mean realllly long, around the entire length of the train station and next-door White Sands, under the scorching sun no less. What irked many was the fact that there not enough buses chartered for the event, with one coming in only every three minutes on average – close to the frequency of the trains pulling in even more of those headed to the event. Furthermore, buses were not packed like sardines, even though each articulated bus can carry about 140 passengers before being instructed to move off, in what I presume to be an effort to ensure comfort. But in such big-scale events, I say just do away with the shuttle service comfort. We rather forgo the comfort for a short while and would instead very much love get to the destination early.

TIB525K of Woodlands Depot

Good thing though, the organisers heard the visitors’ complaints and the situation improved slightly the next Sunday. Almost double the number of buses were deployed, and in what seemed to be a policy of “grabbing any available bus”, even bendies with full-body advertisements were thrown in! Wall’s and Hagen must have been glad to be receiving additional exposure without even paying extra advertising costs! Naturally, these last-minute buses displayed the usual “CHARTERED” or “SMRT BUSES” on their electronic display system, instead of the specially created “SINGAPORE AIRSHOW 2008”.

Despite the unimpressive performance of the shuttle buses, I personally find it unfair for the public to simply shoot down SMRT for providing a poor service. Who should be blamed first though, are the organisers of the event itself, which I feel simply failed to anticipate the large turnout over the weekend, especially since there is no limit to the number of tickets that can be bought (that led to another problem of overcrowding at the site itself), and there was simply poor planning, evident from the timing at which planes are being towed, resulting in disruptions to the shuttle network itself and worsening delays. It has to be noted too that there was simply a lack of coordination between the various agencies supporting this event, with duties seemingly not clearly assigned to the staff on the ground.

No doubt SMRT has lots to learn from participating in such large-scale event charters which rival SBS Transit has much experience in, such as never ever to deploy rigids when demand surely requires bendies. But to put every single blame on them is just not right. If the organisers had instructed SMRT to supply them with only say, 40 buses, would you give out double the number, with all the additional costs borne by yourself? Surely not.

Nevertheless, the snaking queues of articulated buses in SBS Transit-controlled Pasir Ris was a sight to behold, even for critics. Bus enthusiasts, especially those more fond of the ex-TIBS buses, definitely had a fun time spotting and photographing something which may never repeat in future.

Buses queuing to alight visitors of the airshow
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