The Train System Falling Apart!

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From iTODAY: We’re not trained to deal with emergency situations, train operators say

Sumita Sreedharan | 19 Apr, 2012 12:19

SINGAPORE – Both SMRT train operators that took the stand on the fourth day of the Committe of Inquiry said that they had not received training on how to deal with passengers in emergency situations.

Mr Mohamad Alwi Bin Sirat, whose train stalled between City Hall and Dhoby Ghaut, and Mr Hardy Bin Afandie, whose train stalled before Orchard station, took the stand this morning.

The two men had vastly different approaches to dealing with pasengers when their trains stalled with Mr Mohamad Alwi walking through his train to check on passengers and even allowing a passenger who was asthmatic to rest in his cabin while Mr Hardy stayed in his driver’s cabin to wait for further instructions from the OCC. Mr Hardy said he had done so “for security reasons”.

The men also had contrasting experiences with Mr Hardy not hearing any sounds or experiencing unusual jerks as he travelled between the City Hall and Dhoby Ghaut. In contrast, Mr Mohamah Alwi had heard a sound that sounded like plastic was being dragged but he had been unable to check as he could not look out of the windows when he passed this stretch.Source

TODAYonline | Singapore | Of failed devices and questionable decisions…

Of failed devices and questionable decisions…

SINGAPORE – A faulty train was used as a rescue train, right after it had evacuated commuters on board.

The faulty train then broke down before it reached the train it was supposed to assist. Communication equipment on at least two trains also failed to work.

These were some of the missteps during the major train disruptions in December that surfaced yesterday during the third day of the public inquiry.

It also heard that the SMRT had not checked the trains thoroughly after the first breakdown on Dec 15, leading to a second disruption two days later.

Two drivers who operated the stalled trains during the disruptions were called as witnesses yesterday.

One of them, Mr Muhammad Yassin Yazid, told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) that on Dec 15, he was nervous as he was driving a train alone for the first time. He had joined the SMRT in January last year.

Mr Muhammad Yassin said he saw sparks on the underside of his southbound train as it was heading towards Dhoby Ghaut Station. He did not report his observations as sparks are normally seen when a train enters a high-speed ramp from a low-speed one, he said.

According to his statement, he was experiencing intermittent problems with his train on Dec 15, with several fault light indicators lit.

Nevertheless, the faults were rectified once the system was reset, he said.

Mr Muhammad Yassin said he reset the system at least twice, until the train started to slow down and eventually stalled at Braddell station.

According to him, the hand-held portable radio set – which he could have used to communicate with the station or the Operations Control Centre – did not work because of a damaged LCD screen.

Responding to COI member Soh Wai Wah on what was wrong with the device and whether Mr Muhammad Yassin had checked it when it was handed over to him, Mr Muhammad Yassin said he had not, and only found out it was not working when he tried to use it.

The Land Transport Authority’s lawyer, Mr Andrew Yeo, then questioned Mr Muhammad Yassin’s training and whether he knew what to do, for instance, in terms of communication procedures when the train loses power.

The train driver had a single answer: He had been instructed to “contact the Train Service Controller for further instruction” when any situation arises.

The second train driver, Mr Zainal Rahmat, told the COI that the train he was manning was re-designated to become a rescue train, even though he had informed the Operations Control Centre on several occasions that his train’s fault indicator lights were lit.

Mr Zainal, who has worked with the SMRT since 1989, said after he had been told to stop his train at Toa Payoh station to allow all the commuters to alight, he thought his train would be asked to head back to the depot.

Instead, he was “surprised” to get the instruction to drive his train to provide assistance to Mr Muhammad Yassin’s stalled train. Mr Zainal’s train barely made its way out of Toa Payoh station before it, too, stalled.

According to Mr Zainal, his train was in “emergency state” and he had informed the Operations Control Centre of this, using the hand-held communication device.

The battery was flat in his train’s radio communication set, he said.

The COI also heard that the SMRT only conducted visual checks on its trains after the disruption on Dec 15. Even then, not all trains were checked – only those at the depots.

Responding to COI member Lim Mong King’s queries, the SMRT’s lawyer, Mr Cavinder Bull, said after the first disruption, the SMRT’s priority was to repair the damaged trains.

Even though it had planned to check all trains, the transport operator did not have sufficient time to do it, he said.

Mr Bull added that a thorough check – which took 28 days – was done only after the second incident on Dec 17. Source

Day04 of the COI which is scheduled to last for 6 weeks is on going at the Subordinate Courts. Based on the above two newspaper reports, it seems that all the cobwebs are slowly unravelling from the cupboard!

The trains drivers are not trained to handle passengers in an emergency! The COI should ask if the train drivers are trained to perform CPR or render First Aid? My gut feelings tell me they can’t do these basics.

Almost 2,000 passengers packed like sardines on peak hours inside the train with an untrained train driver? So much for our government boasting about being the transport hub, heavy investment on infra structure and world class transport yada yada!

This COI drama is not only watched locally but also internationally. Some of our neighbors must be laughing all way to the toilet due to diarrhea cuz they just can’t stop laughing.

Our train system so vital to our economy is falling apart. Equipment and system failure are happening on a daily basis. Even as the COI is in progress, 3 or 4 broken down trains within a week need to coupled up and pulled away. Witnesses taking trains to attend the COI were late due to train delay when ironically the COI is about train inquiry!

The COI chief is a District Judge taking train to work. Hopefully the chief won’t be caught in a stalled train whilst on his way to chair the COI! If that happens, it will be the biggest joke of the year!

The 4 train drivers giving oral evidence under oath in the stand seem confused and unsure of their job descriptions. After their performance in court will the public have full confidence on our train system. Are the trains operated by professionals or monkeys cuz they are only paid peanuts at $1,200 starting pay?

With that kind of pay what do you expect? Underpaid staff to operate the billions of dollars system in a professional manner? Must be a pipe dream.

Only 4 days into the 6 weeks COI drama and some shocking truths are revealed. We can expect more juicy details like the never ending soap opera. Never in our 47 yrs of nation building that such proportion and magnitude of national shame and gross incompetency is publicly paraded for all the whole world to see!

Our trademark efficiency, professionalism and safety simply vanish overnight and go down the drain.

I will bet to my last dollar that at the end of the 6 week COI, the idea of NATIONALISATION may not be a bad idea after all.

The profit driven model of a public transport company just doesn’t make sense when conflicts of profits & share dividends at the expense of costly maintenance and the fare paying public simply cannot be reconciled. When will they ever learn this simple truth?

PTOs will always try to maximize profits and trim bottom line for share holders at the expense of cost cutting measures and minimize costly maintenance. Any CEO will behave and function accordingly like a profit driven private enterprise.

As it is as obvious as the mid day sun, the public transport system is crumpling and falling apart. The signs and symptoms are just too obvious that even the blind can see! But they can’t or still pretending nothing amiss?

Are we waiting for the total disintegration of the public transport system beyond redemption then only nationalization sets in?

We will have to wait for more skeletons falling out of the cabinet on the days and weeks ahead before we can see the truth in it. In the meantime just stay tuned for more COI updates!

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8 Responses to The Train System Falling Apart!

  1. Lohcifer says:

    Surely a vital part of emergency situation training is “passenger management” – as with pilots of passenger planes or captains of cruise ships, SMRT train captains have a crucial role in communicating with passengers, providing updates, providing reassurances, etc when such needs arise. Apparently such training is not provided. It is related to service. The same is with taxis too – drivers are required to have adequate knowledge of Singapore roads (though nobody can know every road, street, avenue, etc) but I don’t believe drivers are trained on service-mindedness or how to relate with passengers. Net net: Technical knowledge exists, tactical skills totally lacking.

  2. No face liao says:

    The above findings are indeed “world class”. No other country with an affluent society can meet that kind of “standard” PAP often boasted.

    • Padaly says:

      World Class findings? Our national icon is losing its luster and becoming a joke in the eyes of the world! We do not feel proud of our trains any more. The mere mention of our trains will evoke all kinds of expletives from the public. Those in charge better do something fast and NOT keep on blaming each other thru their expensive lawyers like what the COI chairman says we are here to find out the faults and problems with the system – not finger pointing!

  3. Padaly says:

    The fact that our metro train system has become an integral part of our daily landscape moving millions of pax trips cannot be over emphasized. There will be more train lines opening up soon with the billions of public funds committed to it’s network expansion. It is now timely for a thorough review and revamp of the entire rail system i.e. the model of full or partial privatization or nationalization in the form of setting up a Statuatory Board to run the entire rail network system autonomously and independently without any third party interference!

    Obviously the current model of fully privatized business entity with LTA as the regulator doesn’t seem to work anymore. The natural tendency for a private enterprise to aim for maximum profits and minimum costs by cutting down on expensive assets maintenance & operation costs is clearly in conflict resulting in our present sorry state of affairs. If there is no problem then why this high powered COI lasting 6 weeks parading in a public court? Whilst the COI is in progress to probe into the system’s failure on last Dec, yet the trains are still breaking down even more frequently.

    The instabilty and unreliablity of the rail network is so obvious to the public that any more self- denial simply won’t assuage an irate discerning public. A re-think and revamp of our current model is therefore timely. Already universities and polytechnics are arranging for alternative transport on exams period just in case. The trust is no longer there!

    There are advantages of nationalization. Instead of the LTA as regulator telling the train operator what to do and how to run the trains now the stat board will decide everything on its own. The blaming game stops there and now. As it is from the on going court case, LTA and SMRT getting first class expensive lawyers to ‘finger pointing’ each other. Pushing blame to each other to the chagrin of an appalled public! WTF! The commuting public actually suffer and at the losing ends with two fellows fighting over whose faults or incompetency that resulted in our current mess!

    Let’s just see how it will unfold in the on going saga. More cobwebs are getting out of the closet as the trial goes on!

  4. Ricky says:

    NE & EW lines come with drivers, the circle and NE lines’ trains are driverless. During emergencies how to respond?

  5. Padaly says:

    On paper or in theory u are correct. But do you know that on every train that is driverless, there is a staff inside meaning the “driver” is walking abt inside the train instead of in the driving cab. This is iin case the train breaks down. So there is acttually every staff inside the train. No much different at all.

  6. Singaporeans Deserve Better! says:

    Why is the public so bitter and unforgiving at the recent boo-boos by the government? Well, when you pay yourselves millions and are by far the highest paid politicians in the world (even after the recent pay cuts) and justify your astronomical wages by saying that you get what you pay for, then the public has a right to expect the highest quality and almost no mistakes.

    Going by the results, we are definitely not getting what we are paying for! Also, for so many years, the government have been sharing the slices of the success pie among themselves but the public have not been getting any slices. They set the bar way up there and we are only expecting them to perform to the standard the set.

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