Fail-safe rail culture needed

I agree that the senior management of SMRT must act promptly to improve safety standards for its rail operation ("Tragedy should spur fail-safe culture"; March 28).

One could argue that the terrible incident on the tracks at Pasir Ris station was not a freak occurrence, but rather the most visceral sign yet of a long-running lackadaisical attitude towards safety and operational standards.

In the past few years, the number of MRT service disruptions has spiked, creating massive inconvenience for thousands of commuters and engendering substantial socio-economic costs ("Rise in major breakdowns but MRT gets more reliable"; April 5).

The argument that these breakdowns were caused simply by "ageing infrastructure" does not really hold water, considering how significantly older metro systems in cities such as Hong Kong and Tokyo have continued to operate with superior reliability.

Instead, many - including the Committee of Inquiry into the MRT service disruptions of December 2011 - have cited insufficient preventive maintenance and lack of rigour during inspections of equipment as key contributory factors.

This is alarming, considering how the repair and upkeep of essential systems serve not only to ensure that trains always run on schedule, but also to ensure safety, by preventing potentially fatal catastrophic failures.

The Pasir Ris incident has shed even more light on potential systemic flaws in SMRT's operational procedures.

Repeated incidents with our rail network have demonstrated that a passive attitude of "learn as we go along" is woefully inadequate.

Indeed, it is completely inappropriate to cut corners or otherwise skimp on regular maintenance and safety measures.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi