Dodging the Question

So SMRT has responded to letters from ST readers complaining that the shuttle buses deployed during the recent breakdown had drivers who got lost and took more than an hour to make trips that would have taken only a few minutes by train. However, SMRT’s letter does not address the issues of unsatisfactory bus service. They merely reiterate that they had responded quickly, deployed all the staff they had, deployed all the buses they could get, etc. Not a word on the poor set-up of the replacement bus services or the incompetent drivers.

Letters below the fold.

SMRT needs more robust recovery plan
TRAIN services were disrupted on Monday morning. I arrived at the Pasir Ris MRT station at 8am during the disruption and was advised to take the free shuttle bus to Tanah Merah Station.

Although SMRT responded rapidly by providing 70 buses to ferry commuters to Tanah Merah Station, I had to spend 1 hour and 10 minutes in the bus from Pasir Ris to Tanah Merah – a journey that would usually have taken about 20 minutes by road.

The shuttle bus, which was already packed when it left Pasir Ris, tried to pick up affected commuters at Tampines and Simei. Not surprisingly, few of the commuters at Tampines and Simei got on board as the bus was already crowded.

Furthermore, the journey was made on trunk roads with numerous traffic lights. The usually heavy traffic in the morning was made worse by the large number of shuttle buses that had been dispatched.

As a result, my usual 30-minute journey from Pasir Ris to Raffles Place took one hour and 40 minutes.

SMRT should have managed the situation better by dispatching shuttle buses from each of the affected stations to Tanah Merah instead of sending them on a lengthy route through Tampines and Simei.

Also, the shuttle buses should have used the expressways so that more trips could have been made.

This would have made better use of limited resources and commuters would have got to their destinations faster.

In addition, the Land Transport Authority should have coordinated relief efforts with the Traffic Police. Despite the heavier-than-usual traffic, throughout my journey there were no traffic policemen at intersections to direct traffic. The only police vehicle that I saw was stuck in the traffic jam itself.

If Singapore is to rely heavily on the bus and MRT network to move commuters, then there should be a more robust and effective recovery plan by SMRT and the authorities.

Cheah Khuan Yew

Shuttle passengers taken on 1 1/2-hour tour of east

I AM writing to express my concern about the way SMRT handled the disruption in train service on Monday morning.

My wife was in the train at 6.15am heading towards Pasir Ris and she had to disembark at Tanah Merah Station for what was to be a 1 1/2-hour bus tour of the east.

The driver of the shuttle bus that SMRT engaged did not know the route to take from one station to the next. He was going in circles and, after many passengers approached him, he finally admitted that he had lost his way. His normal route is in the Sembawang area and he had not been briefed on how to get from Simei Station to Tampines and then to Pasir Ris. Finally, after being given directions, he was able to get to Pasir Ris Station.

As a result of SMRT’s lack of preparation, many students on the bus were late for classes as well.

I would like to hear from SMRT what preparation it has made for such a situation and if it briefs the drivers of the shuttle buses on the route they would be taking.

Tng Kok Khim

SMRT responded rapidly to service disruption

I REFER to media reports and feedback from passengers affected by the train service disruption between Pasir Ris and Tanah Merah MRT stations on Jan 21.

The disruption arose as a result of damage to our rail grinding vehicle (RGV) by a locomotive, the cause of which we are still investigating.

The RGV is used to grind tracks to level uneven edges for a smoother train run and this is performed daily during off-service hours. Due to the nature of the damage and site constraints, the recovery was slow. This was compounded by the fact that we were moving cautiously to avoid damage to tracks so that we could resume service after the maintenance vehicles were removed.

Once we determined the extent of the situation, over 300 SMRT staff were activated from as early as 4.40am to assist with the provision of alternative transport services and preparations for resumption of train service. On the ground, more than 100 staff were deployed to supplement staff strength at the affected stations.

In a situation where service is interrupted or degraded, commuters will be inconvenienced. And at the operational level, there are many pressing concerns key of which are to connect commuters so that they may continue on their journey as soon as possible.

On the morning of Jan 21, bus bridging services commenced at 5.38am to coincide with the start of train services to ferry passengers from Pasir Ris, Tampines and Simei MRT stations to Tanah Merah MRT station, where they could continue their journey on the unaffected stretches of the network.

In anticipation of the morning rush hour, we injected more buses bringing it to a total of 70 buses (40 SMRT and 30 SBS). This was the maximum number of buses deployable without severely impairing the bus services islandwide.

But there was still congestion at the stations as the heavy traffic conditions on the roads along the affected stations delayed the pace at which the buses could transfer commuters.

We also introduced westbound shuttle train services to ferry commuters to Tanah Merah MRT station. The train was travelling on the unaffected stretch of the track and cautious driving was imposed, which meant the train was driven in manual mode of 15kph, instead of the normal average speed of 45kph.

Information on the service disruption and alternative travel modes was disseminated through train and station announcements, notices, rail travel information system in the stations and electronic signboards at the entrance of stations.

Regular updates were also sent to radio and television channels. With the media’s support, there were regular announcements to keep commuters updated on services available and to encourage those not already in the network to seek alternative modes of transportation.

We recognise there is room for improvement and will take all feedback into consideration when refining our plans.

However, as with all things mechanical and electrical, there will always be failures and in this instance, resulting in service disruption. Under such circumstances, SMRT is committed to directing its energies to connecting commuters to available services so that they can continue on their journey, providing timely updates to commuters, and recovering the system to resume normal operations as soon as possible.

Goh Chee Kong
Corporate Marketing and Communications
SMRT Corporation Ltd


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