Commuters hit by double whammy - DTL delays and Grab app glitch

Commuters hit by signalling fault on Downtown Line and technical issue on ride-hailing company's app

Communications consultant Emelyne Ng uses the Downtown Line (DTL) to get to work from Tampines East to Bencoolen.

But yesterday she, like many other commuters, were hit by a double whammy.

First, a signalling fault caused a massive delay on the DTL that lasted all day.

When Ms Ng, 25, tried to book a car via Grab at 8.30am, that did not work either.

Reason: The ride-hailing company suffered a nearly 31/2-hour glitch from about 6am that also affected commuters in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Ms Ng, who lives in Pasir Ris, said she eventually took a Comfort DelGro taxi to her workplace, near the Rendezvous Hotel in Bras Basah.

In a joint statement released yesterday afternoon, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SBS Transit said train services on the DTL were affected by a signalling system fault at Bayfront station at 6am.

This caused trains approaching Bayfront station in both directions to be driven manually and at a lower speed.

Technicians later isolated the fault to a stretch from Promenade to Bayfront stations in the direction of Expo.

Meanwhile, free boarding of regular bus services was available at designated bus stops between Bugis and Chinatown stations.

One DTL commuter, who wanted to be known only as Ms Eva, said it took her 11/2 hours to get from Bedok Reservoir station to her workplace, an IT firm at One-North. The journey usually takes 40 minutes.

Ms Eva, who was late for work, told The New Paper at 7.15pm: "I was caught in the delays once again on my way home from work, but I thought they would have fixed it by now."

Another commuter, Ms Cheryl Tay, 22, an undergrad, who was going to Hillview MRT station on the DTL, said she was disappointed with the delays.

"It's still a new line and there really shouldn't be any problems with it," she said.

In another joint statement in the evening, the LTA and SBS Transit said delays on the DTL between Promenade and Downtown MRT stations would continue until the end of the line's operational hours yesterday.

Apologising for the inconvenience, the statement added that efforts to restore normalcy along the affected stretch would continue through engineering hours.

The previous DTL delay caused by a signalling fault was on Dec 12 last year. Then, the fault near Tampines MRT station had caused delays on the DTL during the evening rush hour.

Meanwhile, affected Grab customers told TNP they were surprised when they found out they could pay for rides only with cash.

Grab drivers also said they had not been informed by Grab about the glitch and found out about it only from passengers.

Some Grab customers said they turned to Uber but were hit by a price surge which caused fares to rise steeply because of the strong demand.

According to them, prices rose by up to 2.3 times in areas such as Orchard Road at 7.30am.

One Uber driver told TNP a trip from Sembawang to Pasir Ris cost more than $50 when it would have cost around $25 otherwise.

Mr Huang Wenqiang, 40, who works in the aviation sector, said he was quoted $66 for a Grab ride from Bukit Panjang to Changi Airport, which normally costs $30.

He eventually got a lift from a colleague.

"I was still late, but I would have been later if I had taken Grab. It is quite crazy because half the day's pay would have been spent travelling to work," he said.

At 9.20am, Grab said all issues had been addressed. The company did not respond to queries from TNP.

The technical issue faced by Grab follows disruptions to Nets and the SingPass website in the last month.

Referring to these incidents, Assistant Professor Arvind Sainathan from Nanyang Technological University, said: "Sometimes these systems do get affected, but they should have backups to reduce the inconvenience caused.

"To minimise damage to customers, more can be done operationally."