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Last run for SMRT Link Outram Park to Chinatown route April 1, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Miscellaneous, SMRT.
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April is the month all public transport commuters look forward to, as bus and train fares are going south for the first time, reversing the upward trend for the past years. Not only are the fares for basic bus services reduced, even those for premium and other basic-plus services like Express and Fast Forward, gets a reduction. Definitely good news in this economic climate. And perhaps the best way to attract the masses to ditch their cars for public transport.

smrt_link_map

April will also see the withdrawal of SMRT’s free shuttle bus service connecting its Outram Park MRT station with Chinatown. This comes as a little surprise as it is the only route out of the three (the other two running from Dhoby Ghaut MRT station to Chinatown and Little India) which utilises a normal 12-metre bus instead of the smaller BusPlus midibus.

The three SMRT Link free shuttle bus services were introduced in response to the opening of rival SBS Transit’s Northeast MRT line along which the lucrative Chinatown station sits on. As part of efforts by the government to make transfers between different train lines run by different companies to be as seamless as possible, commuters can just exit from one train and pop into another one without the need to go through multiple fare gantries like in other countries. However, this means dominant train operator SMRT will have to split the fare of a passenger using its North-South and East-West lines when he transfers to SBST’s NEL. In other words, SBST will also get a cut of the passenger’s total fare and in most cases, SMRT would have lost a considerable disproportionate chunk.

This could have been the most likely reason why the company decided to run the free shuttle buses with the aim of preventing commuters on its North-South and East-West lines from transferring to the NEL. While it is true passengers may save at most 15 cents for not transferring, the convenience of travelling in airconditioned comfort should win over the hassle of transferring to a bus outside the station hands down.

Hence, it comes as no surprise that these SMRT Link shuttle bus services, though free of charge, do not see high passenger loads. Perhaps it is time for SMRT to withdraw the other two routes as well, and save some money which could be spent on providing extra bus journeys during peak hours for its other more deserving high demand services.

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