By Joy Fang
Confusion over who was in charge, and a hefty, non-user-friendly emergency-response plan that was "too complicated" for staff on the ground to refer to in a chaotic emergency.
Those were some of the observations made in a report submitted by Mr Andrew Barr - operational planning and integration manager of the London Underground - which was revealed yesterday, during the 17th day of the Committee of Inquiry hearing to look into last December's two major MRT train disruptions.
Mr Barr, who was incident commander during the 2005 London Tube bombings, took the stand with Mr Peter Gillen, an operational specialist from consultancy Gtrans International. They were the first overseas experts called in to help with the investigations.
Speaking in court, he noted that, while SMRT staff responded in an "excellent" manner in the face of a rapidly escalating event, not everyone who turned up to help understood what their key role was.
There was also confusion over who was in charge, he said.
The court then heard 10 recommendations from Mr Barr, which he said were "fairly common sense and not rocket science".
Among them, he suggested a clear "vertical integration" structure where people act under a single source of control and understand their roles.
In London, a colour-coded system was implemented to differentiate different levels and roles of staff, he said.
This would be recognised by staff and show the level of responsibility they held, he said, adding that it was a success in London.
Referring to SMRT's practice of having a more senior member take over the station manager's role when the emergency-response plan is activated, Mr Barr said there was "no reason someone should step in and take over if the people in that role are completely competent".
Prompt customer care, especially for those with underlying medical conditions, was also crucial, he said, suggesting that bottles of water be given out to affected travellers.
A simplified emergency-response plan was also needed, with more summarised content and diagrams, and fewer words, to make it easier to interpret.
Committee member Lim Mong King suggested that the emergency-response plan should be a brief one, adapted to the situation at each station.
On bus-bridging services, Mr Barr said SMRT should look into more ways of utilising this alternative service, such as by using bridging buses to ferry travellers to unaffected train lines.
Mr Gillen said there "was a need to look into regulatory requirements for bus companies" so they can be made to remove buses from regular services to help with the situation.
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