by Daniel Yap
THIS week is hell for SMRT. Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s knee-slapping “volunteer” defence in Parliament last week was followed up with his speech on Monday (Nov 13) about how Singapore’s MRT system is failing because “we were simply short of cash” when it was built, and because a much-needed “depot is 30 years’ late, but better late than never!”
On Tuesday (Nov 14), a train fault on the North-South Line delayed commuters by 15-20 minutes, although no announcement was made on SMRT’s social media channels.
Social media silence whenever possible seems to be the new rule for the disgraced transport operator, which didn’t publicise Tuesday’s train fault. This, in spite of Mr Khaw saying in a parliamentary response to Mr Pritam Singh several weeks back that “LTA requires the rail operators to inform passengers of any delay exceeding 10 minutes during peak hours and exceeding 15 minutes during off-peak hours, without exception. This is done through announcements in stations, on-board trains, on the operator and LTA websites as well as through mainstream and social media… Over the last two years, there have been no cases where LTA has found the operator liable for failing to meet these requirements.”
Silence was broken for Wednesday (Nov 15) morning’s train fault on the Circle Line, which resulted in a delay of 20 minutes or more. Emergency brakes were unexpectedly activated on a Circle Line train, jamming up the rail network.
Then the crash. Two trains collided at Joo Koon station at 8:18 am that same morning, injuring 25 people. SMRT’s Twitter account, once the go-to resource for timely announcements, merely referred to the accident, the second-worst train-to-train collision in SMRT’s history (the first was in August 1993), as a “train fault”. SMRT’s Twitter has, at the time of this writing, not described the accident as anything more.
It was not until four hours later did SMRT talk about the accident on Facebook, where the company has very spotty updates on train delays. It provided less information than what was already all over the news, and referred to the crash as one train that “came into contact” with another train. That “contact” sent 23 passengers and two SMRT staff to the emergency room.
SMRT’s first Facebook post on the train collision at Joo Koon Station this morning. Screenshot from Facebook.
SMRT’s own description of the Aug 5, 1993 incident is a “collision”. 156 commuters were injured that day due to an un-cleared oil leak on the tracks. SMRT said that that incident led to “the establishment of a stronger safety culture in SMRT”.
It seems that as SMRT’s operational woes worsen, its public communication has shrunk and gone on the defensive. It may even have failed to fulfill its obligations to the public. Sadly, any worry that Singaporeans cannot trust SMRT to communicate clearly and in a timely manner is going to be completely overshadowed by the shattered trust in SMRT’s operational capabilities in the wake of the latest crash.
Featured image from TMG File.
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