Singapore’s Trains Resume Service as SMRT Probes Shutdown

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SMRT Train
An SMRT Corp. train departs from Expo station in Singapore. Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

Trains on Singapore’s two main subway lines resumed normal service as authorities investigate the cause of a power fault that froze evening commutes across more than 50 stations and stranded thousands on Tuesday.

Trains on the North-South and East-West lines are running on normal weekday schedules at full speed, operator SMRT Corp. said in a posting on Facebook Wednesday.

Singaporeans vented on social media as thousands spent hours trying to get home from work Tuesday, underscoring the island’s reliance on the train lines. While delays are more common in subways like London’s, Singaporeans used to relatively smoother service were caught off guard as the breakdown put pressure on alternative modes of transport including buses, taxis and Uber Technologies Inc. drivers.

“Today fortunately trains ran without a glitch, so far,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a posting on Facebook on Wednesday. “But because we have not identified the root cause of the power trips, we are still very worried that the problem may recur.”

All trains on the two lines were stalled for more than three hours Tuesday, with full services resuming at 10:35 p.m., after a suspected power surge caused by a faulty train triggered protective shutdowns across both networks, according to the Land Transport Authority.

Train breakdowns in Singapore, including those operated by SBS Transit Ltd., have prompted fines from LTA. In July 2014, the regulatory body fined SMRT S$1.6 million ($1.2 million) over four train service disruptions. SBS Transit was also fined S$50,000 for one incident.

Delay Rates

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew doesn’t think a committee of inquiry is necessary and SMRT and the LTA should focus on finding the root of the problem, Channel NewsAsia reported Wednesday, citing Lui. Singapore formed a committee to investigate disruptions to the train service that occurred in 2011, the worst the country had experienced at the time.

SMRT’s incident rate for delays lasting longer than 5 minutes had decreased to 0.73 from 1.19 in the past year, Kuek said in a speech at the company’s annual general meeting in Singapore Tuesday.

“I am extremely concerned,” Transport Minister Lui said on his Facebook page late on Tuesday. “I am sorry that so many commuters experienced massive disruptions to their journeys.”

His post drew more than 800 comments as commuters voiced frustration with the public transport system, with some calling for him to step down. Some Singaporeans also expressed sympathy for officials and transport workers handling the crisis.

One irate reader told the minister to apologize, citing the fact that the public had to accept public transport fare increases, and saying the issue could affect how people vote in the next election that must be held by January 2017.

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