I hate the Bukit Panjang LRT system, but I’d hate it more if it got scrapped

Our (daily) lives depend on it.

By Joshua Lee | October 8, 2016

So the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (BPLRT) may or may not be done away with in the near future, according to SMRT.

It may not initially show this, given that their initial options explored included:

– having autonomous guided vehicles that don’t draw on external power
– A completely-overhauled and newly-designed LRT system
– Improving the existing system’s aspects to make sure it works, and can carry more people, more quickly

But buried some way further down in the blog post is this:

Screenshot from SMRT's blog post
Screenshot from SMRT’s blog post

Now, for a Bukit Panjang resident like myself, this is the worst kind of pre-weekend news to receive — but not for the reasons you might think.

Yes, it sucks

I’ll be the first to agree that the system has been, pardon my French, shit.

The BPLRT has been problematic even from all the way back in 1999 (geez, it’s not even been 20 years. Sullen teenager much). Just one year after it started operations, two of its cars collided, injuring five passengers. Last year alone, it had 10 breakdowns which lasted more than half an hour. That’s plenty of instances of people walking on tracks:

Taken from VR Forum.
Just keep walking….Taken from VR Forum.


Taken from VR Forum.
Just keep walking….Taken from VR Forum


Screen grab from Twitter
Walking, walking, walking….Screen grab from Twitter


This year, an LRT train sped past three stations non-stop, and the emergency call buttons and phone weren’t working. Seriously.

Collision, disruptions, breakdowns and speeding-without-stopping aside (if those are things a sensible commuter can even set aside), I haven’t even talked about how it smells.

Trust me on this if you haven’t taken the LRT before: it can be worse than a basketball team’s locker room, especially when it breaks down.

Only in your dreams. Taken from Wikipedia.
Only in your dreams. Taken from Wikipedia.

So scrap lah.

In light of the above, certainly — the blindingly obvious thing to do might be to scrap it.

I disagree, though. I want the BPLRT to stay right where it is — yes indeed, even though I don’t use it.

Actually, it’s precisely because I don’t use it that I want it to stay in operation.

See how small the roads are? (Source: Google Maps)
See how small the roads are? (Source: Google Maps)

See, most of the roads in Bukit Panjang, especially the ones that buses ply, are narrow. Some roads only have single lanes going in each direction. During peak hours, multiple buses can end up bunching, which, of course, holds up traffic.

As subtly pointed out by SMRT’s blog post, extra buses on the roads will of course cause more jams, clogging up our already-very-narrow roads.

It is therefore entirely in my interest to see this system survive, persevere and succeed.

So here’s a short letter from me to my favourite transport operator:

Dear SMRT,

Please upgrade your LRT system, enhance your infrastructure — take option 1, 2 or 3, I don’t care. Do whatever you have to do to make the BPLRT system work again. Just don’t scrap it altogether.


A Bukit Panjang bus commuter.

P.S.: Even the LTA thinks so.


Top photo from Sg Trains.

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