SMRT train in Bishan Depot found vandalised

Graffiti spray-painted on train's exterior; no intrusion was detected at depot

For the fourth time in four years and the second time this year alone, police were called to an SMRT depot yesterday to investigate a case of possible vandalism.

This time, the graffiti is believed to been spray-painted in various colours on the outside of a train at Bishan Depot. It was discovered yesterday morning before the train started service.

Police officers went to the Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 premises after receiving a call at about 6.40am. In the afternoon, the police confirmed they were investigating a case of vandalism and that investigations were ongoing.

The transport operator has been fined a total of $250,000 in the past for security breaches at its depots, which are high-security areas.

The Sunday Times understands that no intrusion was detected at the Bishan Depot yesterday. This means that although the premises have an electronic Fence Intrusion Detection System, it was not triggered, suggesting that the culprits did not break through the fence.

Confirming the incident, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said SMRT discovered the graffiti before the train left the depot to start service. An LTA spokesman said the authority "takes a serious view of the incident" and is working with the police and SMRT on the investigations.

SMRT's vice-president of corporate information and communications, Mr Patrick Nathan, said the transport operator was investigating the incident and assisting the police. He declined to comment further.

When The Sunday Times visited the depot yesterday afternoon, there was a police vehicle and three police officers stationed near the entrance. However, the media were not allowed in.

Since 2010, SMRT has had to deal with repeated vandalism incidents at the Bishan and Changi depots.

In May 2010, two vandals cut through the fence of SMRT's Changi depot and spray-painted graffiti on one side of a train. One of them, Swiss national Oliver Fricker, was given seven months' jail and three strokes of the cane, while his accomplice, Briton Lloyd Dane Alexander, remains at large.

Then, in August 2011, a hole was cut in the fence at the Bishan depot and the words "Jet Setter's" were spray-painted on one of the trains.

On May 5 this year, a red scrawl was discovered on a train before it left the Bishan depot for service. The police took fingerprints of SMRT staff working on the morning the train was found vandalised. Investigations for that incident are still ongoing.

After the second incident in 2011, SMRT faced strong criticism from politicians and the public. The train operator attributed the second incident to a security lapse, which took place due to human error.

It was reported in September this year that a new Fence Intrusion Detection System had been put in place at SMRT's Ulu Pandan, Bishan and Changi depots.

More lights and surveillance cameras were also installed to enable security staff to pinpoint the exact location of an intrusion and capture it on video.

MP Seng Han Thong, who is deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, expressed concern yesterday over the latest incident at Bishan Depot.

"Some members of the public may think that Bishan Depot is an easy target," he said.

"I really hope that SMRT and LTA will review and enhance the system so that it does not happen again."

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg