Trains delayed once again on first day of PSLE - SMRT please get your act together

The stuff of nightmares turned into a horrifying reality for PSLE-taking students on the morning of 28 September 2017, when a train point fault along the East-West Line caused traveling delays of between 20 and 30 minutes, and eventually took nearly three hours to clear. The Ministry of Education subsequently dispatched a post on Facebook assuring affected Primary Six students scheduled to sit for the English paper at 8.15am that they need not take an additional moment of pause just to secure excuse letters from SMRT train stations, and would be accorded the full exam duration to complete the paper upon arrival.

Thankfully, the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) later clarified that “no schools have informed SEAB that any candidates were affected by the train service disruption”. Still, nerves were rattled considerably as evidenced from interviews conducted with kids who raced against time to get to their respective schools:

PSLE candidates such as 12-year-old Aaliyah Sarah were forced to make alternative plans because of the delays.

The St Hilda's Primary School pupil realised that there was a delay when she arrived at Pasir Ris MRT station around 6.30am and called her parents, who drove her to her school in Tampines. She arrived at 6.55am, 20 minutes before the assembly time of 7.15am.

"Luckily my parents could give me a lift on their way to work. If I were late for the exam, I would be more nervous and it may affect how well I do in the paper," she said.

Her father, an aircraft technician, ended up 20 minutes late for work.

Junyuan Primary School pupil Xiong Junhan, 12, said he took 15 minutes longer to get to his school in Tampines from his home in Paya Lebar, but made it for his PSLE paper. "I was really fearful that I would be late, which would make me even more stressed during the exam. I wouldn't be able to focus and would take longer to think of the right answers," he said. (Source: The Straits Times)

This makes it incident number 2, as the same cohort of students were forced to deal with an equally stressful situation a month earlier on the morning of August 18 2017 (the PSLE oral examinations were held that day) when train service disruptions occurred simultaneously on both the Downtown and North-South Lines.

Suffice to say, Singaporeans were more than miffed. Many took to social media to air their discontent towards SMRT's immense failings as a transport operator, and articulate their concern for the emotional state of kids who were inconvenienced while journeying from their homes to participate in their very first high stakes examination. A few also chided the Ministry of Education for its somewhat nonchalant reporting of statistics concerning the number of affected students in the aftermath. We spent quite a while trawling through the sprawling online collection of public sentiment that ensued when the news first broke, and provided a snapshot of opinions below:

By Teo Yap Hong:

"Inconsiderate of the ministries to simply report that no students were late for the PSLE...... please be more sensitive and understanding of their feelings, the anxiety and stress when the students (primary school/secondary/JC...) realised the delays/breakdown of public transport system on the way to school. These events will affect their state of mind and body right before the examinations."

By May Lim :

"SMRT is supposed to bring convenience to commuters by shortening travel time but now it has become a burden to all. Totally unreliable. Commuters are now always fearful it might break down anytime instead of sending them to their destinations punctually."

By ilkless :

"I still remember the notion of a massive train breakdown on exam day being unthinkable. MOE only developed its contingency plan (see the SEAB posters at every station?) after the giant CCL breakdown in 2011. Even then, I never thought I'd see multiple breakdowns coinciding with national exams. Utterly pathetic."

By Lucid Teo:

"This mode of transport is highly unreliable. Rationally, parents and students are more likely to avoid trains when a high stakes exam takes place. Why court unnecessary trouble and stress?"

By Kannan Gomathi :

"Poor things. Added stress for the kids taking national exams.Hope it does not affect their spirits. All the best to those taking the exams."

By Tay Yee Lam :

"Feel really bad for the kids who panicked because of this :("

By John Smith:

"Thanks to the foresight of the parents and students to be early. No thanks to SMRT!"

By Patricia Lua :

"Maybe just for PSLE or O level or A level periods, ๐Ÿ’žarrangements could be made among parents through their usual group chats to have ๐Ÿš˜๐Ÿš–๐Ÿš˜๐Ÿš˜๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš™ car-pooling, ่ฎฉ็ˆฑ่ตฐๅŠจ, let's help one another to fetch other kids to schools. "

By Ben Tan:

"No wonder our kids have the highest anxiety disorder rate in the world."

By Dexter Teo :

"Some parents do not trust the reliability of SMRT , would rather drive them there or take a cab ........"

By Zulkifli Ibrahim :

"How to sit for the exam...when you just rushed over due to the delay and your feelings have yet to settle down and recover from the incident..."

By Donnie Gan :

"Transport ministry must revamp the entire old system. Please don't deceive yourselves. Public is thoroughly disappointed and tired of listening to all the excuses.

Merely treating the symptoms will not eradicate the problem. Dive deep into roots causes.

We are a world class country. Excellent infrastructure is paramount important for nation's economic success."

By Angie Huang :

"Is the Singapore government going to compensate the affected people for the loss of time, extra expenses and stress to re-take the exams due to these train delays???!!! Or is it going to just keep quiet, act blur, do nothing and wait until the next major SMRT breakdown to happen with injuries and deaths involved???!!!"

Seriously SMRT, you really need to buck up and stop insulting our sensibilities with rehashed excuses. Instead of giving commuters a peace of mind, you are now creating distress on a daily basis. Yes, that includes you too dear Land Transport Authority (LTA) - crack the whip, fire some nincompoops in management positions, whatever. Pretty please, with a cherry on top, do what you must to MAKE THE TRAINS RUN PROPERLY ONCE MORE.

PS: Even assessment books are ridiculing the current state of affairs surrounding SMRT's efficiency. This is plain shameful.

The Czar (Site Founder)

Dated 29 September 2017


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