By Joy Fang
Commuters who are left stranded at MRT stations in the event of a train disruption can expect more help to get to their destinations.
They can now ride any bus service for free, as long as it is from pre-designated bus stops and interchanges close to the train stations.
The free services will be offered by both transport operators - SBS Transit and SMRT - and fares incurred will be borne by the operator of the disrupted MRT line. The bus stops will be chosen by the transport operators.
This was announced yesterday in a joint press release issued by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), SBS Transit and SMRT.
The measures are to ensure that affected commuters can quickly carry on with their journey on available bus services, without waiting for the activation of free bus-bridging services, said the release.
How many buses this will involve and how long the free bus services last will depend on the nature and length of the disruption, said LTA.
my paper understands that all commuters at the designated bus stops, regardless of whether they were affected by disruptions, will be able to take bus services there for free, and tickets will not be issued.
SMRT experienced its biggest disruption in its 24-year history on Dec 15 and 17 last year, affecting more than 200,000 commuters.
The operator provided free bus-bridging services between stations then, but commuters complained about a lack of information as well as long waiting times in queues.
To address this, the two operators will work with LTA to improve their procedures, said yesterday's release. They will broadcast announcements on free bus services and bus-bridging services at the affected MRT stations.
More signs will be set up within train stations to guide commuters to designated bus stops and interchanges. Information panels will also be displayed at stations and designated bus-bridging points to inform commuters of the bus- bridging routes.
SMRT currently uses social- media tool Twitter and the Traffic Watch segment on radio to disseminate information to commuters.
SBS Transit said it is looking into introducing rail-disruption alerts on its iris smartphone app, and through an SMS notification service for those without smartphones.
On his Facebook page yesterday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew posted: "It is a pity that it took the service disruptions of December for us to address this shortfall in our current practice.
"Nevertheless, I am encouraged that the operators have since worked though the details to implement free bus services."
A Committee of Inquiry appointed to look into the causes of the two service breakdowns will commence its hearing on April 16. Separately, the LTA and SMRT are also conducting their own investigations.
Initial investigations conducted by LTA showed that several metal grips, or "claws", that help to keep a third rail - which supplies electricity to trains - stable, were dislodged.
In a Feb 10 e-mail reply to my paper, SMRT said it completed securing the dislodged claws with industrial-grade cable ties on both the North-South and East-West lines on Dec 28.
my paper understands that these plastic cable ties are stronger and more durable than general-purpose ones used for securing plastic bags.
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