Sunday, August 21, 2011

Security breach at SMRT Bishan depot: A rail security headache

The finger pointing between transport company SMRT and Evtec Management Services, a private security company hired to patrol its Bishan train depot, should be settled without delay.

A check with Evtec's terms of reference would settle the question of whether its guards had failed to patrol the fenceline where an intruder allegedly entered the protected area to vandalise SMRT rolling stock.

If Evtec lapsed, then withdraw the SIRD licenses of its guards and let the firm go belly up.

If SMRT doesn't even know where its out of bounds areas are, then we have a real problem with rail security.

SMRT's complacency is disappointing and a dangerous mindset that puts the lives of thousands of rail commuters at risk every day.

Rail security should have been raised immediately after 9/11 when it became apparent that foreign operatives had conducted a video reconnaissance of Yishun MRT station with a view to bombing the place.

Then came 11/3/2004 Madrin train bombings and the 7/7/2005 London bombings of the city's bus and Underground system.

Our security planners reacted the way most generals do: By planning to fight the last war.

And so with great fanfare and publicity, Exercise Northstar V was staged in January 2006. The exercise scenario was modelled after the tragedies in London. That wet weekend, Singaporeans had to endure minor disruptions at key transport nodes in the city state.

Amid reassuring statements by security gurus, the security of our train depots went under the radar. We had tackled a London Bombing Redux and Singaporeans were persuaded they could all sleep well at night.

It took a train vandal to expose flaws in rail security.

Enter Oliver Fricker, a 33-year-old Swiss national who trespassed into SMRT's Changi depot to spray paint train carriages there in May 2010.

We now hear that history has repeated itself at the SMRT depot in Bishan.

Having vandals express their artistry on train carriages is a minor irritation compared to the possibility that hostile elements might infiltrate the said depots to plant time bombs on rolling stock.

With the kind of mindset SMRT has displayed time and again, we would probably have to wait for terrorists to turn SMRT trains into coffins on tracks before the company stops pushing out excuses and takes proactive action.

Is this how things are done in this country? That it takes someone to die before people take action just like it took the death of one Indonesian teenager before months of delays in putting up drain railings were finally resolved?

The rail security headache is one that warrants urgent attention, not platitudes we have heard before.

Hostile elements itching to strike the Lion City, whose reputation as a hard target raises its attractiveness as a trophy target, would probably be cheered by this weekend's news of the Bishan security breach.

A decade after 9/11, there are weak links they can exploit. And it's only a matter of time before they succeed.

How many wake-up calls does SMRT need before it does something about rail security?


Anonymous said...

Not just SMRT, most GLCs follow the reactive stance of civil service. They usually act after something happens and not act to preempt it. Take the MRT gates for instance, SMRT actually waits for the number of incidents to exceed a certain safety threshold before searching for a solution.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the bloody CEO of SMRT giving the interview. No corners will be cut and no shortcut she claims. Like the bloody Wong Cunt, she refused to take the blame, instead is waiting to pin the blame on her juniors. For goodness sake if she has any hpnour she should step down.

Anonymous said...

Has Northstar ever been staged anywhere but Sentosa?