20140120 AssMRT’s repeated “signal fault” signals incompetence

SMRT greeted its passengers with another massive North-South line breakdown at the start of the week and had thousands running late for work and school. It continues to max out passengers’ patience but one should not expect any meaningful response from its largest shareholder, our government.

Repeatedly putting the blame on “signal fault” only signals its incompetence in providing a reliable service, a necessity for the majority of Singaporeans.

Although the SMRT had warned passengers to expect a delay of up to 20 minutes, many on social media disputed SMRT’s PR with some saying they had been stuck for 45 minutes. On the bus bridging service, one passenger told SMRT to “stop lying” as she could not find any buses after having walked around the bus interchange. http://therealsingapore.com/content/massive-delays-north-south-line-due-signal-fault This was confirmed by asking one of the staff.

Recall that four years ago, the cocky Ferrrari-driving SMRT CEO had said that “Even at its most crowded, an SMRT train carries 1,400 passengers. This is “not crush load”, where a train is carrying more passengers than the standing load it is designed to carry under normal circumstances. Crush load happens when a train carries more than 2,000 passengers. People can board the train – it is whether they choose to.” To Saw, loading a train up to 1999 passengers was acceptable.

During peak hours, trains arrive every 2 and a half minutes. Taking the ex CEO’s figure of 1400 passengers, a 45 minute delay would have affected about 25,200 passengers.

As a profit-driven company, SMRT would never have allowed many of their revenue generating assets (buses) to lie idle. Buses are also in demand during peak hours. (the above “stop lying” comment on the bridging service is probably true) With a maximum capacity of 90 passengers per bus, SMRT would need to activate at least a few hundred buses and drivers within minutes for the affected 25,200. Within such a short period and during peak hours, at best, it could activate only tens of buses.

An overcrowded platform with temperatures running high is also an accident waiting to happen.

SMRT must not come up with silly statements and excuses and expect passengers to take it lying down. It could do something meaningful like:

1 Reimburse all affected passengers automatically.
2 Free rides for the rest of the month. (only 10 days)

It’s about time a new KPI is set for CEO Kuek Bak Chye. It doesn’t have to be three strikes and you are out but there has to be an acceptable limit (perhaps 10? per year before giving him the boot) to the number of breakdowns.

To really pacify commuters who have been putting up with an overcrowded system and lousy service for years, the MOT (SMRT’s big boss) should delay the implementation of the fare hike in April. Chances are there will be more breakdowns between now and April. This will cut SMRT some slack and show citizens the government is truly concern.

Is the government willing to make a difference whether it’s SMRT or AssMRT?

Phillip Ang

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