Major Disruptions ready for some bubble madness?

Under the Licensing and Operating Agreement (LOA) between the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the service operators, SMRT and SBS Transit are required to adhere to the Operating Performance Standards (OPS) for service quality, safety and maintenance. Most notably, the OPS determines the severity of service disruptions as delays affecting more than 20,000 persons per incident.

They are getting bigger

  • A surge of hits after 2010, and they are getting worse.
  • Power/electrical faults are often the culprit. And it caused three major disruptions on the North East Line between Dhoby Ghaut and Harbourfront stations in July 2006, May 2007 and March 2012.
  • Most of the major disruptions fall within 4 - 12 hours of service outage/delay.

Reinforcements have arrived!

  • For the most severe disruptions, SBS Transit was not able to muster as many staff as SMRT, to assist with ground operations such as crowd control at train stations. At best, SBS Transit could send 210 staff as compared to SMRT's 300.
  • Crisis response can benefit from economy of scale. While it is possible for service operators to rent-pool their buses, manpower is not so easily shared between two rival companies. As it happened in the major disruption on 15 December 2011, SBS Transit turned down SMRT's request for assistance in the bus bridging service. As a result, SMRT had to activate the sub-contractor buses (Committee of Inquiry report, Ch.8-12, p.71).

More buses, but is it enough? Over the years, the service operators have been ramping up the number of buses that can be deployed in the event of a major disruption. However, road traffic can delay buses' arrival at the bridging points. Evidently, in the major disruption on 15 December 2011, "buses for the bridging service were slow in arriving", at about 20 minute intervals. To improve on their incident response plan, SMRT will be allowing free travel on regular bus services passing through stations affected by a service disruption (Committee of Inquiry report, Ch.8-12, p.69, 95).