Opening Address by Minister for Transport Mr S Iswaran, at the Public Transport Workers’ Appreciation Day and Launch of Caring Commuter Week Event

05 Nov 2022Speeches
Friends and colleagues,
Fellow stakeholders in the Public Transport System,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
And all the young citizens who are here with us today,

1.     A very good morning to all of you. I am delighted to be here with all of you to celebrate the Public Transport Workers’ Appreciation (PTWA) event, and to launch this year’s Caring Commuter Week. 

2.     As we all know, our Public Transport system is an essential service that touches the lives of millions of Singaporeans every day. Before COVID-19 struck, we had 8 million trips a day on our public transport system. Everything that we do has an impact in a very real way in the lives of every person. The only reason why we are able to run the Public Transport system at the level that we are accustomed to, world-class and comparable in its efficiency and availability to the best of the world, is because of the work of our public transport workers. As such, it is fitting that we are having this occasion today to celebrate their contributions.

3.     As we emerge from the pandemic and our ridership increases, it is important that we continue to maintain the rigour and commitment that has seen us through the pandemic, to enable us to cope with the challenges that lie ahead. In my mind, I have absolutely no doubt that our Public Transport workers are fully committed and have the capability to rise to the occasion. 

4.     Today, on Public Transport Workers’ Appreciation Day, I do want to take the opportunity to show our appreciation by highlighting a few specific examples. It does not mean that they are the only ones, but they reflect the culture, the ethos, and the kind of mindset that we have amongst our Public Transport Operators. We have Bus Captains such as Mr Mohamad Aidil, who is always keeping an eye out for his commuters. On one occasion, he reminded two primary school students that their stop was approaching and that they had forgotten to press the bell to alight. We also appreciate Service Ambassadors like Ms Ummirita, who once noticed an elderly commuter wandering aimlessly around the bus interchange. Suspecting that the commuter may have dementia or some other challenge, she reached out and helped to reunite the elderly commuter with her family.

5.     I think it is also important, even as we talk about the frontline staff, that we give a shoutout to our maintenance staff. These are the unsung heroes in many ways because they work behind the scenes. They are not seen by all of us, but their work makes all the difference in ensuring that the system is running smoothly. Often, they have to work at very odd hours – for example, rail maintenance can only take place after rail services end and has to conclude before rail services start at four or five in the morning. I want to recognize Mr Mohammad Iskandarian and Mr Chan Jinghan. Mr Iskandarian and his team proactively identified a potential fall hazard in the depot and implemented a fall protection system to improve safety. Mr Chan and his team took the initiative to put in place a more efficient method to replace batteries on buses – this is an innovation that will help us even more as we make the transition towards electric buses. I think it is important that both our frontline and maintenance staff, as well as other members of the Public Transport workforce, are recognized for their contributions so let us give them a big round of applause. 

6.     I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the contributions of all our tripartite partners, who are here in full force, and that is important to reflect the strength and the camaraderie that we have in our public transport system. The Union frequently engages our workers and their supervisors to understand the ground sentiments. The Public Transport Operators have established internal hotlines for their workers to voice their concerns that they may have. Our corporate partners have also stepped up to offer discounts and gifts for our PT workers for the months of November and December.

7.     Going beyond the tripartite partners is really the broader community, which has shown unwavering support and appreciation for our PT workers. I am happy to share that the PTWA slogan contest organised by LTA and Singapore Kindness Movement has attracted more than 1,700 entries. Students from St Margaret’s Primary School, some of whom are here today, have also prepared 200 hand-written messages of appreciation on postcards that will be distributed to PT workers during today’s event. These are truly heart-warming gestures from the community which will be much appreciated by our PT workers.

8.     Besides being an essential service, our Public Transport is also a shared space for all of us. Each and every one of us as commuters play an important role in creating an inclusive commuting experience as part of a larger gracious society. With this in mind, we started the Caring SG Commuters movement, which is a national movement to foster a caring commuting culture in Singapore. 

9.     This is the reason that we have the Caring Commuter Award was launched in 2019 to generate greater awareness and encourage the involvement of the whole community to promote acts of care to fellow commuters. This year, we have a record number of 65 nominations for the award received, almost double the number of nominations received last year.

10.    Later today, we will be presenting Caring Commuter Awards to eight individuals to recognise them for their caring acts. By highlighting their contributions, our main objective is to promote the caring behaviour that they have promoted: Give Time, Give A Hand, Give Care, and Give Thanks. If we all embrace this, it will make our journeys so much more pleasant. 

11.    The Caring Commuter Week is a showcase of the partnerships and ground-up initiatives by the community over the year. I hope that all of you will enjoy the exhibitions and activities put together by the Caring SG Commuters Committee, public transport operators and their social service agency partners, and learn about how we can contribute in our own way during our daily commute.

12.    Finally, let me conclude by quoting a winning entry from PTWA slogan contest that resonated with me. It is by Hessa from Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School, and it says, “Go Smoothly, Reach Safely”. Through the service and dedication of our PT workers, as well as the kind and caring behaviour of our commuters, I am absolutely confident that we can make Hessa’s vision a reality. All of us, as stakeholders in the public transport system, let’s make sure that our journeys always live up to that motto, where we go smoothly and reach safely. Thank you.

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