Monday, 23 April 2012

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew wants answers on spate of MRT breakdowns in April 2012

LTA and SMRT form joint team to investigate latest spate of train breakdowns
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 22 Apr 2012

Following the most recent spate of train disruptions, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT have formed a team to investigate the cause of the problems.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told reporters yesterday that the panel of experts assembled by the regulator and the rail operator will systematically go through the MRT network to identify what went wrong during the recent train breakdowns, which the minister said were 'not acceptable'.

Mr Lui said he had summoned SMRT chairman Koh Yong Guan and chief executive officer Tan Ek Kia on Thursday after trains broke down on four days in the space of a week.

'I wanted them to hear from me that I was gravely concerned over the recent spate of disruptions,' he said.

'I wanted to emphasise to them that taking a business-as-usual approach was not sufficient. We have got to put in the utmost effort beyond what they have already done to rectify the problems.' He said that rail operator SMRT will give its answer in response to these problems at a press conference this week, where it will announce its findings on what caused the breakdowns.

Tens of thousands of commuters were left stranded during the peak hour after train disruptions hit the North-South and East-West lines on April 13, and last Monday and Tuesday. A part of the Circle line was also down last Wednesday, apparently due to a power failure.

These lapses deliver another blow to the beleaguered SMRT, already embroiled in an ongoing official inquiry into December's massive breakdowns on the North-South line.

Acknowledging that commuters affected had a right to be angry after the inconvenience they were put through, Mr Lui said: 'They deserve a much more reliable service than what has been delivered.'

Both the LTA and SMRT formed their own probe teams after last December's severe rail disruptions, and they have submitted their reports to the Committee of Inquiry.

Besides looking at what caused the recent breakdowns, the new joint team will consult the manufacturers and builders of the network to identify and stem potential problems before they crop up.

When asked why the Circle Line, which opened fully only last October, has had the biggest number of breakdowns, Mr Lui attributed it to the 'bathtub effect'.

It is understandable for new rail systems to suffer a series of defects at the start, but the problems will subside and creep up again only at the end of its service life, he said.

The LTA had earlier blamed the Circle Line's woes on 'teething problems'.

On last Wednesday's breakdown, he said there was room for improvement in the way SMRT handled the incident, such as providing more information on bus bridging services and making sure that staff at the stations were able to direct commuters.

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