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Following the latest train breakdown last night aloing the North-South Line Transport Minister Mr Lui Tuck Yew posted this statement yesterday on his Facebook:
“There have been a number of train disruptions in recent days. I do not know if these are isolated incidents or whether there are systemic and more serious underlying issues causing these breakdowns.”
The statement shows a disturbing inability of the minister to come to grips with reality. First, the train disruptions did not just occur in recent days. They have been happening at an astounding regularity over recent months and years. Some of the key disruptions in the last five years include:
15 Dec 2011: North-South Line between Marina South and Bishan
14 Dec 2011: Circle Line between Marymount and One-North
17 Oct 2011: North-South Line between Ang Mo Kio and Bishan
17 Oct 2011: Circle Line between Labrador Park and Pasir Panjang
14 Oct 2011: East-West Line between Kallang and Bugis
23 Sep 2011: East-West Line betwee City Hall and Pasir Ris
20 Sep 2011: Circle Line between Dhoby Ghaut and Marymount
17 Jun 2009: North-South Line between Marsiling and Woodlands
30 Dec 2008: East-West-Line between City Hall and Tiong Bahru
21 Jan 2008: East-West Line between Pasir Ris and Tanah Merah
24 Jul 2006: North-East Line between Harbour Front and Clarke Quay
These breakdowns have taken place across many months and not days as Mr Lui says. Alarmingly, some of them occurred on the same day or just days apart.
The list above is, of course, not exhaustive. In 2010, there were 28 disruptions to MRT services. The number was 17 as of October this year, and these are just on the North-South and East-West Lines.
If all these breakdowns have not caused him to come to the realisation that there is more to the problem than the odd and isolated incident, then it must be concluded that the Minister does not have a firm handle on his portfolio.
Mr Lui makes another confusing confession in his Facebook post: “We will therefore conduct a thorough health check on our train systems, determine how the faults happened…”
This is to be welcomed. But Mr Lui was assigned the porfolio after the May elections. It has been more than six months since he took charge of the ministry and there have been multiple disruptions before and after he took over the job. It is right to question why he did not see fit to commission a check on the entrire system much earlier.
Somewhere during the more than 50 breakdowns and disruptions in the last two years, should not the minister have done something to rectify the problem?
Mr Lui’s ignorance of the situation and the attendant inaction highlights a transport system marred by incompetence.
This takes place in light of a breakdown in security when MRT train depots were broken into in 2010. The Transport Ministry should be on its toes following the incident and pay far more attention to the operations of SMRT. Unfortunately, this has not happened. And no one has yet been held accountable.
Public transport is the arterial system of the economy and the community. Disruptions are therefore a major concern for the nation as a whole. The Singapore Democratic Party calls for the following:
1. That the Minister for Transport return to Singapore and conduct an Urgent Safety and Health Check (USHC) on the functioning of the MRT system to ensure that immediate concerns are eliminated so that the safety of commuters and the security of the system are not compromised
2. The government convene an independent Public Transport Commission to study the safety, health and security of the MRT system to ensure that the economy and citizens are not endangered further.
3. That full disclosure of the USHC findings are made available to the nation.