Install metal detector gates at MRT stations

Terrorist hits are becoming daily news nowadays, and they are inching ever closer to our homeland. It is not a matter of if they will happen, but when.

We must act to minimise potential casualties in such an eventuality. We must provide a bulwark for one of our softest targets - our MRT trains and crowded stations.

Approximately 2.9 million people use the trains daily. The sheer numbers warrant our best protection efforts. There are bag-check counters at MRT stations, but they are ineffective as the checks are ad hoc. Only one person carrying an explosive device needs to slip through to create carnage in a packed train.

Similarly, the presence of armed guard patrols serves as a general deterrence. The patrols can handle altercations in open spaces, but their effectiveness is doubtful when the threat is in a packed train.

Metal detector gates are one idea to explore. They can be installed just before each fare gate.

No doubt, such an implementation will slow down passenger flow, but people will understand and get used to it, just as they readily accepted the inconvenience when airports started doing additional checks as a result of terrorist attacks.

For a start, we can have trial runs at a few train stations, to build up patience and foster such a culture before extending this to more stations. A side benefit of such a scheme could be a change in travel patterns, so people will travel during the less-crowded hours.

Seow Joo Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Install metal detector gates at MRT stations'. Print Edition | Subscribe