I am most fortunate to encounter 4 separate public breakdowns and minor road accidents on SMRT public buses in less than a year.
It is such experience that highlights the good work of some of our Singaporean bus drivers and the severity of the lack of training given to our current fleet of transport workers especially with the rising proportion of foreign workers into our public transport service.
Of the 4 incidents I encountered, two which involved road accidents occurred with the same bus route and coincidentally both buses were driven by foreigners (not sure if they are both PRs!) , a Malaysian and a Chinese national respectively. Honestly, in both accidents, I could not tell whose fault it was—the bus captains or the other motorists.
The other two bus break downs involved local drivers. The reason of me pointing out the nationalities of these drivers being, of these four incidents, coincidentally again, only Singaporean drivers could conduct proper breakdown procedure to the passengers involved, by issuing complimentary bus tickets for passengers affected to continue free-of-charge with their subsequent journey and also instructing passengers to tap out when leaving the bus.
In my most recent encounter of a bus break down, our Malay bus captain gave clear instructions and explanation in English of each procedure that I realized, for the first time, in addition to the given complimentary ticket, passengers actually received a refund straight away when they tapped out of the affected bus. I always thought that I have to travel to the bus terminal to get refund and because of the time and cost involved, I never did.
In comparison, on foreigner-driven buses, both bus drivers appeared hapless after the accident and had to call back to SMRT or stopping other buses for advice. Passengers were told to get off the bus with or without a complimentary ticket. And in one case, even communication between the driver and the non-Mandarin speaking passengers was an issue.
These accidents/breakdowns on public buses and in comparison with different groups of drivers, highlighted the importance of training the transport workers receive, to safeguard both the safety and convenience of passengers. Training is especially crucial to overseas-recruited drivers as driving in foreign road conditions with foreign language and commuters are very challenging. Therefore, training provisions must be sufficient to overseas-recruited transport workers to ensure the safety and convenience of both the commuters and the drivers.
Lastly, I would like to express my appreciation to those local drivers who have been upholding the standard of our public bus service, in the challenge of ever increasing number of motorists and public bus commuters.