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Post-pandemic, employers should adjust work habits to avoid return of rush-hour crowds on public transport: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE — If public transport habits and travel volume during rush hour revert to pre-pandemic levels once Covid-19 blows over, Singapore would have “wasted the crisis”, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday (Nov 13).

Post-pandemic, employers should adjust work habits to avoid return of rush-hour crowds on public transport: Ong Ye Kung

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said that passenger volume is now about 60 to 70 per cent of what it was before Covid-19 struck.

SINGAPORE — If public transport habits and travel volume during rush hour revert to pre-pandemic levels once Covid-19 blows over, Singapore would have “wasted the crisis”, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday (Nov 13). 

Speaking at an event marking the completion of tunnelling works for Punggol Coast train station, which is part of an extension of the North East Line, he noted that there is not much of a peak-hour crowd on the trains currently, as passenger volume is about 60 to 70 per cent of what it was before Covid-19 struck.  

To prevent the re-emergence of peak-hour crowds in the future, Mr Ong said that employers can play a role by adjusting work hours, allowing workers to toggle between working from home and office, and also to stagger arrival times till “as late as 10am”. 

“As a result, we will see a healthier recovery of commuter traffic, better spread out throughout the day. This would be an outcome that we have been yearning for for decades,” he said. 

Mr Ong said travel habits need to change as the previous way of commuting, where crowds rush during the morning and evening peak hours every day, was not logical, comfortable, efficient or environmentally friendly. 

“But we continue to do it because that's just the way it is. But Covid-19 forced us to press the reset button and rethink how our habits should change,” he said. 

Singapore’s rail infrastructure has been designed to accommodate peak-period crowds. However, this means that it is under-utilised during off-peak travel, he said. 

“If we can just spread out commuter traffic throughout the day, everyone will have a more comfortable ride, and yet the system serves more people,” he said. 

Hence, it would make more sense for workers to complete tasks that can be done remotely away from their office, and to only go to the office when face-to-face discussions or the use of specialised equipment are needed. 

He also announced that the opening of the Punggol Coast station will be delayed until 2024, a year later than its initial planned completion date. 

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public transport Ong Ye Kung Covid-19

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