Vincent Liu

The Doorman

Train Ride, a Squeeze No More

For a moment, I was convinced by mum’s explanation that I was able to get a seat on the train at Raffles Place station during rush hour was because most of the Chinese migrant labour had returned to China for the New Year festivities.

But after some reflection, I can’t convince myself this can be true; surely most of the people working in the offices blocks around the Shenton Way area would be white-collared workers, mostly whom would be local?

Given that it’s been more than a decade since I’ve returned during CNY (in the past years it had always been in December, as it was an easier to take a long holiday that’s lined up with the Western holiday seasons), I had to give it a benefit of a doubt.

I was on the train again today, and with mum in tow. We returned to the same station at Raffles Place, as I had been a few days ago, returning from a stroll through town. This time, it was past 6 and well within the confines of the evening rush hour. We boarded the train, and unlike previous years, there’s a notable difference between the volume of people – in the past, I had to assiduously avoid 5-7pm period or risk being packed like sardines. This year, I get to sit down, both times!

While narrowly missing a previous train from the one I boarded, one on-station staff member helpfully mentioned, “the next train would be in 2 minutes.” He meant it literally. The electronic display indicated that all successive trains are arriving in 2 minute intervals. That’s what appears to be the real answer to why I haven’t been crushed in the MRT this year.

I recalled coming across a headline that SMRT had been upgrading their signalling systems a while ago… this time, before the crowds grow to an unwieldy number, they get shuttled away in the 2-minute interval. Or that’s my theory anyway. Whatever the trick is, it’s working, brilliantly.

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