Singapore’s major train lines, the Downtown Line (DTL) and North-South Line (NSL), have been paralysed by a new untested software implemented by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). The signalling fault started yesterday (Aug 17) hitting all stations along the NSL, with train delays over 4 hours in the peak hour evening. Again during the peak hour period this morning (Aug 18), both the DTL and NSL broke down causing chaos in the public transport network.
Today’s signalling fault started at 6.29am with an official warning of 30 minutes delay. However, SMRT under-reported the delay which according to commuters, is longer than 1 hour. At 6.25am, the second government-owned company SBS Transit posted that the DTL is down and advised that commuters have to take buses. The DTL service resumed some 40 minutes later but delays continued as long as 30 minutes.
At least an estimated 1 million passengers were affected, with total economic losses estimated at S$30 million in lost manpower hours as employees and employers report late for work. Primary school students were also affected by the train delays as some parents reported that their children were late for PSLE oral exams this morning – this has been confirmed by Chinese papers Shin Ming.
Singapore’s two Transport Ministers, Khaw Boon Wan and Ng Chee Meng, and the 3 CEOs of SMRT and SBS Transit are all unavailable for comments. Neither LTA nor the two companies is able to explain why an untested software is being used causing chaos in public transport. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not regard train disruptions as his top priority, with the recent National Day speech making zero mention on the state of public transport.
According to government surveys, public satisfaction on the train is as high as 90%. Transport Ministers Khaw Boon Wan and Ng Chee Meng also claimed that rail reliability is improving and hinted a fare hike for this year.