I got a call from Christopher Tan, the Senior Transport Correspondent of a local MSM earlier this afternoon. Kudos to him in tracking me down (not that it was difficult).
He was doing a follow up to his original report of the flooding of the MRT lines. It was a good chat and we covered some areas of common interest on this topic.
He sort of agreed with my considerations in my previous post about the dangers of water in the tunnel. It is not a small matter when tunnels are flooded. It is not the same as a power being lost and the passengers having to de-train and walk out of the tunnels. With water in the tunnels, and if the water reaches anywhere near the bottom of the train, that would mean that there is probably a meter of water in the tunnel already. De-training and trying to get out is not something that can be done trivially. Even if you can get out, it is very likely that the entire tunnel is dark and having to find one’s way out will be a treacherous challenge.
We need the SMRT/LTA to come up with some mechanisms to manage this scenario. Be bold and willing to listen to the users of the systems and anyone with ideas on how to solve this. Do the trains need to have floats (like what planes have)? Do trains need to have beaconing systems that get activated when there is water (again, like the lifevests in planes)? Lots of easy solutions. Solutions you don’t want to use, but know that it is there when you need it.
During the chat with Christopher, he mentioned that there are “heads rolling” from the SMRT. And lo and behold, there is indeed at least one. The individual who is being “replaced” was resposible for maintenance. He apparently (according to the MSM report) was a witness to the 2011 MRT breakdown inquiry.
So, someone got “disciplined”. I have to assume that there was a transparent (to the extent that SMRT is transparent) process to have done this. I can only speculate. I would expect that this is not a last-man-holding-the-hot-potato situation.
If there is one thing that stands out in this SMRT episode is that I have yet to hear from the CEO himself (nor even the transport minister – not that there has to be a statement from a political office holder though). The silence from the top is quite deafening.
Perhaps I should also bring up another issue that I have posted about back in January 2012 – about the inability to close the blast doors of the tunnels at Newton MRT station. The underground MRT stations are designed to be bomb shelters, for those who don’t know. To be fair, I have no idea if it has been fixed. I wish to be updated on it.
So, imagine if we needed to use the bomb shelters and blast doors on the tracks cannot be closed and there is water in the tunnels. What would we be doing? I hope we get that bit fixed now.
For all of our sakes. For Singapore.
Image above is from HomeTeam News.