By Sophie Hong
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in trains are not just for security but also for monitoring commuter traffic.
In response to queries from my paper, Ms Tammy Tan, senior vice-president of corporate communications for SBS Transit, said CCTVs are installed in the company's stations and trains "for security reasons".
But she added that "they are also useful for monitoring passenger flow and enabling us to respond to emergency situations as they arise". SBS Transit operates the North-East Line.
Transport researcher Lee Der-Horng from the National University of Singapore said that, with the data on commuter flow, transport operators can have a better understanding of transport demands and identify the times when more transport services are required.
"If used in real time, then it is possible for the operators to act in a more dynamic way, such as by dispatching more vehicles or staff to manage the crowd," he said.
He added that while this approach could be new to Singapore, transport operators in cities such as Taipei, Shanghai and Hong Kong have been using surveillance cameras to help with crowd management for about 10 years.
Ms Tan said the footage from the cameras is also used to aid the investigation of incidents such as loitering.
She added that "where needed, we may provide video footage to the authorities such as the police".
The presence of CCTV cameras also helps to deter potential criminals, she said.
Currently, more than half of SBS Transit's fleet of about 3,000 buses are fitted with CCTV cameras.
There were plans in 2007 to install security cameras on every train and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) invited industry players to submit proposals for the systems.
It came after a year-long study in which a few hundred CTV cameras were installed in selected public buses and trains on the North-South and East-West lines.
All North-East Line trains were said to have such cameras at the time. It was reported in 2006 that Circle Line trains would also have CCTV cameras.
When asked if all trains are now fitted with such cameras, an LTA spokesman said that to provide security coverage in MRT stations and trains, CCTV cameras have been installed.
Transit Security Officers are also deployed in stations and bus interchanges. She added that Singapore Police Force officers from the Public Transport Security Command (TransCom) conduct roving patrols at all train stations and bus interchanges and in trains.
TransCom, set up in 2009, made over 500 arrests last year.
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