Fines not the answer to MRT breakdowns

It is of no comfort to me, as a commuter, to know that SMRT has yet again been fined, this time, for a sum of $5.4 million for the major disruption of MRT services on July 7 ("SMRT fined $5.4m for massive breakdown"; yesterday).

Fines have been traditionally imposed for the disruption of train services, but the question is whether such fines serve as any deterrence.

Just a few days before the general election, another breakdown occurred, this time, on the North East Line, which is operated by SBS Transit ("Signalling faults disrupt NEL services"; Sept 9).

Monetary penalties do not seem to "motivate" operators enough to do anything substantial about the frequent MRT breakdowns.

Merely apologising to commuters, investigating the cause of disruptions or even offering compensation will not ensure that breakdowns do not occur with such high frequency in future.

The problem is poor maintenance and neglect over the years, and this needs to be fully addressed.

Train operators need to ensure regular audits of the system in its entirety, so that hidden deficiencies can be rectified quickly.

While problems cannot be fixed overnight after years of neglect, imposing fines for service disruptions is not the answer.

More importantly, the existing model should be completely reviewed and revamped by the management of train operators and the Land Transport Authority, so that major train disruptions will become a thing of the past.

With the cost of owning a car quite prohibitive amid already congested roads, many people have no choice but to rely on a public transport system that has much room to improve.

It is no use professing that we are a First World country if we cannot run a rail network with reliability, pride and integrity.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'Fines not the answer to MRT breakdowns'. Print Edition | Subscribe