Could it not be more appropriately called the Singapore Mass Rapid Travesty? SMRT is supposed to move big numbers of commuters who travel in the train efficiently, but seems to lack courtesy in some of its front-line staff dealing with commuters. Quite glaring was the overwhelming manhandling manner of its operating staff in its recent campaign against eating and drinking offenders in trains and stations. To use an analogy, it was not unlike using a sledge-hammer to whack a fly. It was obvious that the offending commuters were quite intimidated by such peremptory approach. The whole operation could have been done with more finesse which would have left a better taste in the mouth of the public.
The discourteous behaviour of the SMRT front-line staff has remained unchanged since a heart-rending incident involving an elderly female Malay commuter three years ago. Her name was Madam Dalmah, 63, who had severe diabetes with frequent giddiness and prone to fainting spells. Her doctor had advised her to always have some sweets with her to be taken when she experienced such fainting spell. This was because her blood sugar level was low.
She had one such fainting spell as she was commuting in the train on this occasion. Fortunately, she was accompanied by her son Mr. Azli Talip, 35, who promptly popped a lozenge into his mother's mouth. She recovered from her fainting but the whole incident was watched by two SMRT officers. Instead of showing compassion for the old woman's plight, they really showed their fangs. One of them rudely questioned the son whether he knew it was an offence to eat on the train. He refused to accept the son's explanation of his mother's medical condition.This smart alec asserted that an offence was an offence and warned Madam Dalmah not to be caught eating on the train again. Of course the son was livid but he quite wisely avoided creating a scene.
The callous attitude of the SMRT officer, which should take the cake for callousness, has given such a harrowing experience to Madam Dalmah that she now shuns travelling on the SMRT. The train service must not only be concerned with only the mass movement of commuters efficiently for which it was established but it owes a duty to the commuting public to see that its staff, especially its front-line staff, do not forget courtesy to the public along the way, especially compassion to those who are indisposed like Madam Dalmah. The recent campaign against eating and drinking offenders does not give the impression that SMRT has changed for the better in its fron-line staff's attitude since the discreditable incident three years ago.