On Thursday morning last week, there was another train disruption in Singapore. This time trains on the North-East Line (NEL) were stopped due to the fact that two steel cables snapped in the tunnel at Outram MRT station.
Frankly, Singaporeans are no longer surprised by a breakdown in our subway system. So the fact that the problem was found at 5am and it took them over 10 hours to fix the problem is not really an issue with Singaporeans. Singaporeans are furious with the breakdown, they are far less concern on the “why”. No one is asking why the two steel cables snapped, they just want the government to prevent it from happening again.
However I am more concerned about the “why” of the breakdown between Harbourfront station and Dhoby Ghaut station. The reason I’m concerned is that well… they have no idea why it happened! There is still no reason given for why the steel cables were broken. In fact according to SBS, the steel cables were expected to outlast the NEL. That is not the case and it seem they are at a loss on why.
Singapore Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has even admitted that the problem was “not the same problems that SMRT faced in December" and that “he would have to sit down with SBS Transit to find the root cause of the engineering problem”. Even sabotage has also been floated around as a possibility on why the cables broke.
The fact that the SBS has no idea why the steel cables broke is to me is more alarming than anything else. This isn’t one issue which you can fix. You have 2 major but totally different problems occurring within 3 months of each other and no one seem to knew why it happened! They know what happened, what the fault is, but no idea why the fault happened in the first place!
That tells me that that the subway lines in Singapore are facing a systemic problem. This also means that other major issues may/will occur within the rail system. Major issues that would cause more breakdowns which would be difficult to prevent as the problems may be totally different from the problems we faced so far. I think it's highly likely the breakdown last week will not be the last breakdown we will see in Singapore.