Public inquiry to look into MRT disruptions: PM Lee
SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has ordered a public inquiry, after trains on the North-South Line broke down on Saturday morning – the third MRT disruption in four days.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday afternoon, Mr Lee said the committee of inquiry will be similar to that formed after the Nicoll Highway collapse in 20 April 2004.
More immediately, a thorough check of the rail system will begin on Saturday after, after the train services end.
Train services on the North-South and East-West Lines will be delayed on Sunday, and will begin only at 10am, after checks are complete.
The consecutive breakdowns concerned the prime minister so much that he has cut short his vacation to attend to the matter.
Mr Lee said: “It will be a public inquiry, the evidence will be presented to understand why these incidents happened, what is at the bottom of it and how we can make the system more robust and reliable and fault tolerant.
“So that even when a problem happens, you can isolate it quickly and you can still operate the system in a safe way.”
Mr Lee expects the Committee to be formed within the next few weeks.
The committee of inquiry will be assembled by the Transport Minister and will make their conclusions public.
There are no details of the committee yet, but Mr Lee said it will comprise some members of the independent team of experts being tasked by Mr Lui Tuck Yew to look into Thursday’s incident.
He said the disruptions are “unfortunate” and are taken seriously.
He also added that it’s a matter of service reliability.
On Friday, the CEO of SMRT apologised for the Thursday’s disruption, which left 127,000 commuters stranded.
And beyond apologies, Mr Lee added the operator needs to find out what happened, as public safety is important.
Mr Lee said: “Had it just been a one-off matter, one incident and the matter is solved, I think the operating agencies can take care of it.
“But when the incidents happened again this morning, and same thing, that meant that it wasn’t just a random thing, that (it’s) something more basic has caused it and we haven’t quite pinned down yet, and which we have to sort out and work out.
“Such things will happen from time to time, and what’s important is to make sure they happen as infrequently as possible.
“And when they do happen, we handle them as well as we can. And if we can, get to the bottom of the matter, then I think, people will see that in Singapore, we are a human society.
“It’s not that we have no problems, but when we have problems, we will handle them seriously.”
Earlier, in a news conference, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said the North-South and East-West Lines will open for service only at 10 am on Sunday.
This is because SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will need to make thorough checks on the trains and tracks.
Mr Lui said: “So at the end of revenue service tonight, past midnight, we will conduct a visual check on all the trains and of all the tracks along the North-South and East-West Lines.
“We will not be able to complete in time for revenue service to begin at 5.30am.
“We need more time than that. So commuters will need to take this into consideration and plan their travels accordingly.”
There will be free parallel bus services along the affected lines from 5.30am to 10 am.
Some 250 buses will be deployed at an operating frequency of about 10 minutes.
If needed, operators will also increase basic bus services.
When asked if the thorough checks need to be conducted along the other lines, Mr Lui said it’s not necessary at this point in time.
Mr Lui said: “We are watching the Circle Line very closely. The experience has always been that it will take a number of months before things stabilise, in terms of the defects, the incidents, as well as the number of passengers.”
Mr Lui admits that public confidence in the rail system has been affected, and that operators, especially SMRT, will have to work hard to restore its reputation of reliability.