Commuters welcome contingency measures for train breakdowns

The beacon at this bus stop lights up when free bus services are running to take passengers affected by train service disruptions to their destinations. The new beacon is on trial at some bus stops. Yesterday, the LTA, together with SMRT and SBS Tran
The beacon at this bus stop lights up when free bus services are running to take passengers affected by train service disruptions to their destinations.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

They cheer plan to activate special bus services, with the participation of private bus operators

SINGAPORE - Commuters would rather the trains didn't break down.

But, as sales manager Shirley Ho, 29, noted, "we don't have a choice".

Commuters like her were glad train operators were at least drawing up new measures to help passengers during large-scale breakdowns, which they noted were becoming more commonplace. "I am glad that even the private bus companies are being roped in to help," said Ms Ho.

 

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will activate special bus services, laid on by public as well as private bus operators, in the event of multiple line-wide service disruptions.

The extra buses will boost current bus-bridging services offered by SMRT and SBS Transit to ferry stranded passengers to key interchange stations and major town centres.

Private bus firm Woodlands Transport's general manager Roger Wong said the involvement of private bus companies to assist in the event of train breakdowns is in the early stages.

Woodlands Transport, one of the bigger private bus firms here, has a fleet of 260 buses, including 19- and 40-seat vehicles.

"It is good that the resources of private bus operators are being tapped to help out in such emergencies," he said. "With these initiatives, everyone is more prepared, and it would help to ease the burden of a breakdown."

Another area the LTA can improve is to make train fare refunds more convenient, said retiree Toh Cheng Chiang, 66, who noted it is now "quite troublesome" trying to get a refund. "I'd rather save the trouble and not join the long queues for refunds," he said.

Train breakdowns are unpredictable, and plans may fail at critical times, said IT manager Lee Kah Cheng, 36, who takes the train from his home in Clementi to his workplace in Tanjong Pagar.

"When trains break down, people panic. Some will get angry. These are natural reactions," he added. "Besides having good measures alone, operators need to know how to manage the passengers' emotions during such disruptions."

On Wednesday (Oct 14), the LTA, together with SMRT and SBS Transit, conducted a joint exercise to put their readiness plans to the test.

Exercise Greyhound simulated multiple power trips on the East-West Line during the morning peak hours, which resulted in the suspension of train operations along the entire line.

The MRT stations involved in the drill were Buona Vista, Outram Park and Tiong Bahru, on the East-West Line. It was carried out while regular train services operated as normal, and commuters were not affected.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Wednesday took the train to the MRT stations involved to check on the emergency drill, which is part of a series of regular exercises conducted to ensure operators are prepared to manage rail incidents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Commuters welcome contingency measures'. Print Edition | Subscribe