SINGAPORE: By the end of this year, a year-long trial of priority cabins for the elderly, wheelchair users and families with young children will start on the North-East Line (NEL), as part of efforts to create a more inclusive transport system. 

Under the initiative, the two centre cabins of each of the 19km line’s 49 trains will be designated as priority cabins.  

The trial was announced by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng on Thursday (Mar 5), during the Transport Ministry’s Committee of Supply debate. 

“Commuters in these cabins, which will be located near station lifts where possible, are encouraged to give way to the more vulnerable commuters, such as the elderly, wheelchair users and families with young children,” he said. 

Signs will be put up in these cabins that encourage passengers to allow more vulnerable commuters to board and alight first, as well as keep wheelchair spaces free and give up their seats to those who need them more.

“Besides in-cabin signage and visual identifiers, commuters will be informed of the new initiative through video clips and station announcements which will be played at all NEL stations,” said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in a statement, adding that customer service officers will also be on hand to guide commuters. 

LTA first announced plans for such priority cabins last year as part of the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 report, which highlighted a more inclusive public transport network here as one of its goals. 

“Priority cabins complement other programmes aimed at fostering a caring and gracious commuting culture where commuters are more aware and sensitive to those in need,” it said. 

READ: Transport Masterplan 2040: 9 recommendations for faster, safer, more inclusive transport system


Other inclusive initiatives were also announced on Thursday. 

The trial of a mobile application for commuters with special needs – which ran from January to July last year on selected buses on services 139 and 141 – will be expanded progressively to all buses on the two services for three years, beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, said Mr Baey. 

The app, called Mobility Assistance for the Visually Impaired and Selected Users (MAVIS), alerts bus drivers to passengers with special needs who are boarding or alighting, and also allows those with visual disabilities to activate audio announcements for arriving buses and upcoming bus stops. 

“This might not mean a lot to able-bodied commuters, but to the visually impaired, these functions help them get around more conveniently and safely,” said Mr Baey. 

Mr Baey also announced a six-month pilot programme by SMRT Taxis to progressively equip all 2,800 of its taxis with booster seats for young children, which LTA is supporting half the cost of. 

There will be no extra fee for passengers who use the booster seats, which are suitable for children aged four and above.  

Under the Road Traffic Act, it is illegal for cars to carry passengers under 1.35m tall without a booster seat or a child restraint, though taxis are excluded from this ruling as they are considered “public service vehicles”. 

While ride-hailing operator Grab has offered child booster seats as part of its GrabFamily service since 2017, SMRT will be the first taxi operator to offer such an option. 

READ: 1 in 2 children in car accidents not properly restrained: KKH study

“This will enhance safety for children in taxis and provide parents of young children with a safer transport option,” said Mr Baey. 

To spearhead efforts to transport the public transport network into a more caring and inclusive one, Mr Baey announced the formation of the Caring SG Commuters Committee. 

The 15-member committee will be chaired by Public Transport Council chairman Richard Magnus and include representatives from the LTA, the National Transport Workers’ Union and the four bus operators here. 

One of the committee’s first goals is to help commuters better understand other commuters’ needs, said Mr Baey. 

“Secondly, the committee will engage commuters and other stakeholders to explore ways we could grow the caring commuting movement further, as part of the broader SG Together movement,” he added. 

In a year’s time, the committee will submit a report of recommendations on sustaining a caring commuter culture to the Minister for Transport, noted Mr Baey. 

The Government’s efforts alone are not enough to create a safer, more inclusive transport network, said Mr Baey, adding this requires commuters efforts as well. 

“We will continue to encourage individual commuters to be more understanding about those with different needs from ours, be more gracious in putting other people’s needs before ours, and even better, be more caring by going the extra mile for fellow commuters, especially the elderly and those with special needs.”

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