Friday, April 11, 2008

The Thick and the Thin

The issue of transportation, public or private, is always a perennial talking point on Singapore island. The latest is about SMRT winning the inaugural Metro Awards in Denmark for "Best passenger experience", beating out finalists such as Copenhagen Metro, Hong Kong's MTR and The Warsaw Metro. Well, congratulations, except a number of Singaporeans seem to disagree. For example, Today reader, Lee Chui Hsia, wrote that SMRT's 'rapid' service wasn't rapid enough. And worse, nowadays, the train car is packed to the brim during rush hour. Aidil Omar hit the nail on the head when he wrote that it is the overwhelming "bodily scents" that was the problem.

When compared to London or New York's subways, Singapore's is heavenly in terms of cleanliness and promptness, so says Mr Richard Gomez and Wang Hui Ling who, between them, have lived in Japan, London, New York, Germany, Switzerland and Holland. I have not lived in any of these cities, but I have used the subways in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Korea and, of course, my own Singapore. Somehow dirty, dank and dark do not register in my impressions of these subways. Perhaps Asians are more careful about public property and take greater pride in them, compared to New Yorkers and Londoners. One must admit that Singapore's subways are much much cleaner compared to even those that I have experienced overseas.

I do not know which mass rapid systems were polled in the survey, but it would appear that Singapore's is the only one located in the tropics where it is particularly hot and humid. And that's the problem. While people can get packed in Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and other cities comfortably (everyone seem to be wearing 10 layers of clothing, and the warmth of people's body against each other helps with the cold weather too), train passengers in Singapore would find it particularly uncomfortable from arm-pit odour and hair odour, amongst others. Also, given the paper thin clothes (besides the plunging necklines, raised boobs and hem-lines, all visible to the, ahem, naked eye) that many female commuters go about town nowadays, getting closely packed is getting too close for modesty. You know how we Asians are, our modesty, the paper thin blouses notwithstanding, is guarded fiercely, never mind that it is flaunted like nobody's business.

So that's why Singaporean's snigger when we learnt about SMRT's glorious award. It isn't that we, Singaporeans, do not want to feel pride. It is just that the award doesn't square with our experience. And that's what really matters. This calls to mind that we can't compare apples with oranges. We have a peculiar atmosphere - the weather and the humidity - that doesn't bear comparison. And we hope that the award doesn't go to the head of SMRT to lull them into complacency (there's that word), as the MM has warned not too long ago.

Image source: Author: Iain Harper

1 comment :

Marc said...

The Tokyo Metro has been in service for 81 years. There are over 12 million people living in Toyko.

Meanwhile the New York subway has been in service for 104 years with a general population of 8 million people. The London Tube itself has been in service for 145 years with a general population of 7 million.

Our MRT is barely 20 years old. So to compare ourselves to them and feel good about it patently ridiculous.