The Workers’ Party is deeply concerned about the frequency of MRT train service disruptions along the North-South and East-West (NS-EW) lines and the Circle Line, which are managed by SMRT Corporation (SMRT). We are particularly dismayed by the scale of the service disruption between Marina Bay and Braddell MRT stations on the evening of Thursday, 15th December, and how the crisis was managed.
Over 127,000 commuters were affected that evening, and 4,000 passengers were trapped for up to an hour in the packed trains, with limited ventilation in the carriages. At least two passengers had to be hospitalised and others had reportedly fainted. We note that train services were disrupted again on 17th December on the North-South line and services on the entire NW-EW lines will commence service only at 10am on 18th December, affecting thousands more commuters.
We are concerned that the apparent increasing frequency of train service disruptions may be reflective of much deeper infrastructural and technical problems plaguing the 24-year old NS-EW lines.
We question whether these service disruptions were due to insufficient investments in maintenance and upgrades, considering that the MRT system has come under heavy strain over the past 10 years due to the rapid increase in population and ridership. If so, were the lack of essential investments a result of pressure on the public listed MRT operators to minimise costs and maximise profits for the benefit of their shareholders, at the expense of the 2.3 million commuters?
A more immediate concern is the apparent inability of the MRT operators and the relevant government agencies to deal with crises of this scale, despite several large scale civil emergency exercises held in recent years, like Exercise Northstar. We dread to think how much worse the situation could be in the event of a terrorist attack or train collision.
We ask if the Land Transport Authority (LTA), as the regulator of the MRT operators, could have been more vigilant in ensuring that quality of service and safety standards, including train maintenance and operations, were met by SMRT.
The Government cannot stand at arms’ length from this extremely serious disruption to the train services. In the matter of this essential public good, the Government is accountable to the people of Singapore for the performance of the MRT operators to ensure the safety and well-being of commuters.
THE WORKERS PARTY
17 December 2011
Mr Gerald Giam
Chair, WP Media Team
Mr Pritam Singh
Vice Chair, WP Media Team