“Hundreds of people were left stranded at Tanjong Pagar MRT station yesterday evening, after staff there closed the fare gates to prevent overcrowding on the platforms” (Human Jam At Tanjong Pagar, Mr. Royston Sim).
While it is true that occasional breakdowns and accidents within the train system are inevitable factors, the news report “Human Jam At Tanjong Pagar” (October 15, 2011) by Mr. Royston Sim highlights the need for public transportation operators to review existing contingencies for the network of train systems. Following the full opening of the Circle Line a week ago, Singaporean’s reliance upon public transportation – particularly the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system – has increased significantly; therefore, it is imperative for new management methodologies to be contemplated, so that potential dangers and inconveniences can be minimised during such incidents.
Using Bus Services, New Media; And Diversifying Communication Channels
When delays are expected because of the need to rectify carriage faults or to take broken-down trains out of service, the service providers must be quick to let waiting commuters comprehend the current situation. Not only would this allay frustrations and allow passengers to be more informed – especially during peak-hour traffic – well-intentioned announcements with estimations and explanations of the delay would encourage individuals to seek alternatives wherever possible. In the bigger picture, this would help to ease crowds or human jam, and prevent further losses in time and money.
This is not the first time Singaporeans have contended for better communication channels to be put in place by SMRT and SBS Transit; station masters and staff members – given their numbers – cannot be solely relied upon to overcome this information asymmetry. To complement the traditional reliance upon the communications or announcement system, the operators should invest in social media platforms and devices to roll out live alert systems, which would prove to be beneficial given the country’s usage of the Internet.
Future crisis management strategies to deal with lengthy delays should also include the employment of backup bus services to ferry stranded commuters along strategic routes. The integration of our transportation system should make it more convenient for passengers to chart alternative routes to their destinations should there be a need to.
Understanding The Consequences
SMRT and SBS Transit can ill-afford to sit on their laurels, and assume that the status quo would remain viable in the long-term. The ramifications of extended periods of overcrowding during incidents can prove to be severe: the tremendous human crowds may render stations and trains more susceptible to security breaches or terrorist threats, extended delays can lead to growing frustrations and anger, while the lack of space can be dangerous for the elderly and the physically-handicapped.
Change must be the new constant; otherwise, Singaporeans will be the ones who pay the price for the operators’ negligence and arrogance.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.