Commission inquiry MUST be held to ascertain reason of flooding in SMRT train tunnel

Yesterday late afternoon, transport operator SMRT announced that the train service between Bishan and Toa Payoh stations along North-South Line was interrupted due to a track fault.

At first, people assumed it to be the usual train fault that they are faced with on a day-to-day basis. But subsequent media reports revealed that there is flooding in the NSL train tunnel.

Photos of the flooding in tunnel were shared on social media, some widely spread such as the ones posted by Gilbert Goh, founder of Transitioning.org and Singapore’s well-known organiser of protests at Hong Lim Park.

It was only till this morning that SMRT made the announcement on its social media channel, 12 hours after the first announcement of track fault, that the actual reason for the disruption is due to flooding in its train tunnel.

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it received a call from SMRT at 7.07pm about flooding in the tunnel between Braddell and Bishan MRT stations and it was reported that SCDF had to use portable pumps to remove water in the tunnel. This raises questions as to why there are no measures to install pumps at the lowest level of the tunnels in the event of flooding, given that SMRT had already taken the opinion that flooding is likely a possible occurrence and had built several flood barriers in MRT stations.

According to a source from the SMRT technician team, some parts of the tunnel were flooded up to four feet and that the fire that broke out was due to short-circuiting from the water.

In 2011,  a Committee of Inquiry (COI) was convened to look into the disruption of train Services along NSL on 15 and 17 December 2011, the longest disruption in Singapore history and submitted its report to the Minister for Transport on 3 July 2012. It was only through the breakdowns and leaks from the SMRT company that Singapore got to know that the company had been cutting down costs on maintenance despite having an aging rail system.

Following the conclusion of the COI, SMRT and the Transport Ministry poured in millions upon millions trying to rectify the damage done to the rail system from cost cutting exercise. TOC also reported how employees over the past decade had been leaving the company due to cost cutting exercise and the poor attitude that SMRT middle and top management have on maintenance issues. Despite the findings, things have not seen to have improved for commuters. Students and workers are often faced with delays or even breakdown in train service during the morning rush hours.

Lawyer and political activist, Lim Tean wrote on his Facebook page, calling for newly elected President, Madam Halimah Yacob to convene an inquiry into the reason for the disruption,

Another disastrous day for the Singapore commuter on the MRT, and it seems that the problem is not resolved yet . Disruptions are happening with such regularity that our MRT must occupy bottom or near bottom ranking in the ranking list of world MRT systems . Frankly, it is disgraceful and our MRT system has become a laughing stock. Our MRT woes are symptomatic of this government which in my opinion is the worst PAP government in my lifetime and I am the same age as independent Singapore .

If the new President claims to be independent (a claim I have never accepted ), she should now do the right thing and convene a Commission of Inquiry to look into the problematic MRT. This continuing problem affects the welfare of a large number of Singaporeans in their daily lives . Schoolchildren have been greatly inconvenienced going to school and important national exams. Employees are late for work leading to a loss in productivity. The President has powers under Section 2(1)c of the Commissions of Inquiry Act (Cap 48) to convene an inquiry to look into any matter that affects the welfare of the public .

For too Long the relevant bodies have not been forthcoming with us on the real reasons for all these disruptions. Singaporeans deserve to know the truth !

The President must appoint internationally renown experts to the Commission to Ensure total independence and impartiality . Only by so doing will she fulfill the objective of protecting the welfare of Singaporeans .

Let’s see if she does the right thing !

What the two major service disruptions in 2011, the recurring faults of SMRT and the episode of the flooding yesterday, tell us, is that in order to find the truth behind the issues, you cannot trust the company to come clean with the public and neither would the government push it to do so. SMRT is after all now 100% owned by the Singapore government. A COI MUST be convened to ascertain the real reasons for the flooding and to ensure lapses or the actual reason of the flooding are being addressed, so that Singapore commuters will not live with the uncertainty of what caused the flooding and in a constant fear of being trapped in such a situation.