Taming the Inconvenienced Mob

It is about time SMRT thought about partial train closures. These operations will inevitably inconvenience many commuters and cause a good amount of grief, but they are a necessary step a system that is 30 years old needs.

For those of us who are still going on about how maintenance should have been done more comprehensively in years past, well, can’t turn back the clock now can you? So if it’s a blame game you want to play, go right ahead, but those comments will effectively amount to nothing now. At this point, as with any other point in time, we can look both forward and back, but only one way is most productive.

SMRT needs to think, and think hard, on how to make the partial maintenance closures as unobtrusive a possible. A partial closure is no trivial operation. It is a big project with many moving parts. To expect it to proceed without a hitch is ill-advised. This time, the words “Sorry for the inconvenience” must amount to more than just a pleasantry.

A letter sent in by a Today reader Ronald Chan (Temporary MRT closures the right way to go, 17 April 2012) has some instructions on how to tame the inconvenienced mob:

Firstly, commuters must know beforehand of the closures through printed and broadcast announcements. Such announcements must be repeated at regular intervals before and throughout the closures, to inform non-regular commuters.

Secondly, there must be shuttle buses to substitute the affected services. It is insufficient, though, to provide these services without auxiliary staff support.

Although such closures occur over an extended period of time, it should not be taken for granted that the public would know what to do. Whenever there is a closure staff must be present to usher passengers to-and-from the shuttle buses.

They should give clear announcements and not simply resort to whistles and non-verbal cues to guide commuters. Drivers should consistently remind commuters of these disruptions well in advance of the affec
ted stations.

Signs at those stations should be up permanently or at least be displayed on days when there is a closure.

Finally, the operators should exercise discretion in scheduling closure and ensure normal services on major national holidays or for events with predicted heavy usage of rail services, to reduce inconvenience to commuters.

The logistics ad planning for these closures are not trivial.

Staff must be prepared to handle any situation and, in particular, should be aware of the service situation at all times so as to inform commuters of the latest updates.

While these closures are necessary, they should be exercised cautiously, as they are not easy to execute perfectly


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