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article imagePublic anger mounts over SMRT Train breakdowns in Singapore

By Tan Wen Hui     Dec 17, 2011 in World
Singapore - Public transport operator SMRT took five hours to respond to trains breaking down along popular line, sparks public outrage.
For almost three consecutive days within a week, Singapore public transport operator SMRT has seen three train breakdowns – with two taking place on the highly utilised North-South line.
These train breakdowns are arguably Singapore’s worst train breakdowns ever. All in all, an estimated 500, 000 commuters are affected over the past four days since the first train broke down on the morning of Wednesday, 13 December 2011, on the Circle Line.
A third breakdown took place again on the highly utilised North-South line on the morning of Saturday, 17 December 2011.
The cause of the breakdown on the highly utilised North-South line was attributed by faulty rails. According to Yahoo! Singapore, the breakdown on the circle line was due to a ‘communication network problem’.
SMRT has since issued an apology on Friday, 16 December 2011. During a press briefing, the public transport operator’s Chief Executive Officer Saw Phiak Hwa, said: “As CEO of SMRT, I want to personally offer our sincere apologies to the commuters, and we will conduct a full investigation and share our findings with the public when it is ready,”
“I personally feel it’s very important and will personally look into improving our incident management plan procedures, especially in the areas of giving timely and better information as well as crowd management in both our stations and in the trains,”
However, it seems that the public is unhappy with Saw’s apology. In fact, many Singapore citizens are enraged over how SMRT responds to these three hiccups. Some took to social media sites like Facebook to inform friends and relatives of the situation and at the same time, air their views over the breakdowns.
In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Facebook user Gilbert Chua Yang Kai said: “The threat of unpreparedness is real and we may need to re-think our way of handling such situations.”
Three Reasons for Public Outrage
This brings to point why the need for such anger. First, SMRT failed to respond promptly to a crisis. When the second train broke down on the North-South line during rush hour on Thursday evening at 6:56 p.m., commuters were left stranded for five hours before help arrived.
An estimated 127, 000 people were affected by the disruption. To make matters worse, the breakdown affected trains going to and fro from Bishan to Marina Bay.
Secondly, there was much confusion among SMRT staff on what to do during a train breakdown. Although staff were well-prepared to take on an emergency situation such as a terrorist attack, many do not know what to do during a breakdown or power outage.
Thirdly, SMRT sent an opportunist message to all of its taxi fleet to inform them of an ‘income opportunity’ during the breakdown. This sparked a massive public outrage on cyberspace, with many netizens slamming SMRT for its insensitivity over the matter.
As a result of the recent train breakdowns, there have been calls for SMRT and its top honchos to be held accountable for such incidents.
Moreover, this comes in light of the recent increase in transport fares up by one percent.
According to the Singapore Democratic Party’s website, some of the key disruptions in the last five years include:
15 Dec 2011: North-South Line between Marina South and Bishan
14 Dec 2011: Circle Line between Marymount and One-North
17 Oct 2011: North-South Line between Ang Mo Kio and Bishan
17 Oct 2011: Circle Line between Labrador Park and Pasir Panjang
14 Oct 2011: East-West Line between Kallang and Bugis
23 Sep 2011: East-West Line betwee City Hall and Pasir Ris
20 Sep 2011: Circle Line between Dhoby Ghaut and Marymount
17 Jun 2009: North-South Line between Marsiling and Woodlands
30 Dec 2008: East-West-Line between City Hall and Tiong Bahru
21 Jan 2008: East-West Line between Pasir Ris and Tanah Merah
24 Jul 2006: North-East Line between HarbourFront and Clarke Quay
In the meantime, alternative voice website, The Online Citizen, decided to launch a public protest at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park on Saturday, 17 December 2011, at 4:30 p.m.
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