SMRT under fire for trying to downplay Monday’s peak hour train delay

A big crowd at Sembawang MRT station when a train fault took place in Kranji. Photo courtesy of @_shinekoh.

SMRT has come under fire for downplaying Monday’s 90-minute train delay on the North-South Line which affected thousands of commuters during morning rush hour.

In its statement explaining the service failure, it said “there was no service disruption although trains ran at a slower speed.”

“We were alerted of a track circuit failure on the south bound between Yew Tee and Kranji MRT stations this morning. As a result, our trains were travelling at slower speeds to ensure the safety of our passengers until the problem was rectified at 8.32am. Passengers were asked to allow for longer travelling times while engineers accessed the track, and free bus services were activated between Admiralty and Ang Mo Kio MRT stations, while additional trains were deployed to ease congestion. There was no service disruption although trains ran at a slower speed. We apologise for the inconvenience caused,” read the statement in full.

But netizens strongly disagreed with the statement, saying a spade should be called a spade.

“Train stuck on track between stations not considered service disruption? Out of that 1 hr ordeal the train barely moved! Stop lying please!” said Weide Zhu on SMRT’s Facebook page.

“SMRT, if there was no disruption, you wouldn't be providing bus service,” said another Facebook user Jack Ong on the same page.

Engineer Ng Guan Hong, who was half an hour late for work at Yio Chu Kang, summed it up best when he told The Straits Times it didn’t matter what SMRT wanted to call the delays. “That’s beside the point. Essentially, the service failed”.

Parody site SGAG also wrote a pointed open letter to SMRT on Tuesday which read, “On behalf of all Singaporeans, especially those who were stuck on the trains between Yew Tee and Kranji MRT stations yesterday, we would like to bow down, kiss your mighty toes, and sincerely apologize to you for making the false and baseless accusation of service disruption, when your trains were merely running at a "slower speed" like you've correctly pointed out in your media statement.”

On Monday, SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek did however issue an apology and appealed for patience.

“It will take time to fully implement the various system reliability enhancements as we need to continue support daily operations. Despite our best efforts, there will be some delays even as we continue to make improvements to the system. We ask for the patience and understanding of our commuters,” he was reported saying on The Straits Times.

Train service on the North-South Line has been patchy in recent months.

Two major incidents occurred along the same train line in January alone. One was caused by a “cable fault” while the other happened after a train had stalled, affecting about 19,000 commuters.

In December, disruptions happened along the Downtown Line 1 and another happened along the North East Line.

Just last week, Parliament passed a bill to raise the maximum penalty for train disruptions to 10 per cent of the annual fare revenue of the affected rail line, or S$1 million, whichever was higher.

“Overall, any incident involving multiple breaches and service disruption will warrant a higher overall financial penalty than today,” Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said.