Terry Xu
The Online Citizen first reported on the train fault that took place on Monday evening. A photo of a huge crowd building up at the Jurong East MRT Interchange was shared. Passengers were informed of possible train delays due to the train fault at Buona Vista MRT station.
crowd at SMRTNo official updates were made on the SMRT Facebook page nor the company’s twitter account to inform passengers of the delays while many complained on social media about the crowd and the delays they were experiencing.

Local media eventually reported on the train fault later in the night when Mr Patrick Nathan, Vice-President of SMRT’s Corporate Information and Communications department, spoke on the incident.

Mr Nathan said,  “The brake fault resulted in an additional 20 minutes of travel time, with normal operations resuming at 6.40pm. SMRT does not provide bus bridging services unless the disruptions last more than an hour.”
However, the spokesperson seems to have gotten it wrong on bus bridging service as SMRT does activate the service if there is a delay of more than 15 min during peak hours (“ORANGE1” incidents).
Referring to the COI report on the disruption of train services, Chapter 8 – 12, p. 47/226, the Rail Incident Management Plan (RIMP) states that:

“445 The RIMP is only activated for ORANGE 1, RED 2 and RED 1 incidents. When the RIMP is activated, key personnel and additional resources are mobilised into action. Each key appointment holder has a portfolio and a role to play under the RIMP and the applicable  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the RIMP oversees the proper implementation of the RIMP and the measures which have to be taken to restore train services. The activation of the RIMP is supported by a Bus Bridging Plan which is maintained by SMRT…”

There were also past incidents where bus bridging was activated when the disruption lasted less than 60 minutes:

  1. SMRT: Train fault disrupted service between Tampines and Pasir Ris on 24 Aug 2013
  2. SBST: Power fault disrupted service between Dhoby Ghaut and Potong Pasir on 6 Apr 2014
  3. SBST: Power fault disrupted service between Hougang and Dhoby Ghaut on 21 Mar 2014
  4. SBST: Power fault disrupted service on the Downtown Line on 7 Mar 2014
  5. SBST: Power fault disrupted service between Bugis and Chinatown on 27 Dec 2013

To note, this is not an exhaustive list. From the sample, it would seem that SBS Transit (SBST) is more likely to activate bus bridging than SMRT. A possible reason could be that SBST owns a much larger bus fleet. Nevertheless did the Land Transport Authority (LTA) synchronise the incident management plans between the two companies? And also, assuming that the spokesperson is correct in his statement, why is there a difference between SMRT’s and SBST’s bus bridging protocol?

The failure to inform members of the public about the disruption of service warrants further questioning. In Exercise Greyhound (2012) carried out jointly by LTA, SBST and SMRT, social media was identified as one of the evaluation criteria for public communication during service disruptions:

“LTA, as the exercise coordinator, assessed SMRT and SBST’s arrangement for free travel on existing public bus services, and the operation of bus shuttle services to provide transport service between the affected MRT stations. They were also tested on public communications, which included promptly informing the public of a service disruption and providing regular updates at the stations and through the media and social media channels such as twitter until normal service is resumed.”

TOC had contacted LTA to seek their response on SMRT’s failure to make public announcement of the train fault. LTA has yet to respond at time of publication.
Image by Eugene Chong, data from Failrailsg.

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