Train disruptions for second straight day wreak havoc
Thousands, including pupils taking PSLE oral exams, affected by delays on North-South and Downtown Lines
Commuters travelling on two MRT lines were hit by long delays during the morning peak hours yesterday.
For the North-South Line (NSL), hit by a three-hour delay, it was the second day in a row. For two hours on Thursday, a signalling fault had caused delays on the line.
Yesterday morning, the Downtown Line (DTL) was also disrupted for about 3½ hours.
Some Primary 6 pupils, who were taking their Primary School Leaving Examination oral exams at 8am, were among those affected.
The Ministry of Education assured them that arrangements would be made for them.
A Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board spokesman said fewer than 10 students reported late for yesterday's exam.
Lab technician Patrick Loh, 66, called The New Paper hotline on Thursday evening after he was stuck at Jurong East station. He thought the situation was bad enough. Yesterday, just hours later, he was horrified when the scene repeated itself.
He told TNP that he had experienced six disruptions in the past two months. On Thursday, it took him two hours to get home. Yesterday, he was late for work by 30 minutes.
"I was heading to work from Khatib station. When I reached the platform, it was jam-packed," he said.
"This... makes travelling so difficult."
Train services on the NSL and DTL were delayed by two separate and unrelated faults yesterday morning, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.
Preliminary findings indicated that the NSL fault may have been caused by a defective train transmitting erroneous signals.
This caused trains to move at a slower speed for safety reasons. Reduced train frequencies led to congestion at NSL stations. The defective train has since been pulled from service, while engineers conduct further investigations into the cause of the fault.
LTA added that a fault in the DTL's supervision system prevented trains from being automatically launched from the depot. Subsequent trains were then manually driven to the main line at a lower speed, leading to delays.
The fault has been rectified, but investigations are continuing.
The problems on the NSL, which was crippled on Thursday evening because of a fault in its brand-new signalling system, prompted operator SMRT to issue a warning ahead of yesterday evening's peak hour, informing commuters to expect another system glitch.
Yesterday morning, commuter Chloe Lin, 30, had to take three different lines to get to her office in Marina Bay instead of her usual direct train, costing her an additional 30 minutes.
She said: "Taking the bus looked like it would take longer. I tried all the cab-hailing apps, even the SMRT app, but still could not get a cab."
Meanwhile, student Gabrielle Lee, 19, waited 50 minutes for a train at Bukit Panjang station and an additional 10 minutes for it to leave the station.
She said: "I want to blame someone, but I do not know who to blame. It is just very frustrating."
There had been 10 earlier MRT disruptions in the past two months.
Statistics alone won't restore confidence in MRT
Transport experts told The New Paper that the frequent train disruptions will not help restore the public's confidence in the system.
Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) economist and senior lecturer Walter Theseira said it is quite difficult for the public to reconcile their train disruption experiences with the statistics provided by the Government, which claims that overall rail reliability has improved.
He said: "It is challenging, especially when you have back-to-back breakdowns. The perception gap is not going to go away until we can really reduce the likelihood of severe disruptions.
"Statistics alone are not going to convince people that things are getting better because their own personal experiences are more salient."
Transport researcher Park Byung Joon from SUSS said he sympathises with the authorities and public transport operators on the complexity of upgrading the signalling system, and there is not much more they could do.
"Other countries also had their own share of glitches and problems when they upgraded their systems," he said. - MAVIS WONG & ELAINE LEE
The first train on the Downtown Line (DTL) leaves Bukit Panjang Station seven minutes later than scheduled.
SBS Transit tweets there is no train service on the DTL due to a signalling fault.
SMRT's first tweet about the signalling fault on the North-South Line tells commuters to add 30 minutes to their travel time between Sembawang and Marina South Pier stations.
SMRT update says travelling between Sembawang and Marina South Pier may take up to 45 minutes longer.
Trains are running normally on both lines.