At around 8:30am, 14th October, Station Manager Muhammad Fadzil bin Mahmood at Tiong Bahru Station received a phone call. He listened carefully to the other party and after hanging up, he picked up his signal set and said, “Exercise Greyhound. Due to train fault, service is not available from both Changi Airport and Pasir Ris to Joo Koon. RIMP is activated. Over.”
SMRT Assistant Station Managers setting up exercise signs at Tiong Bahru
Exercise Greyhound is an annual emergency preparedness test that involves public transport operators SMRT and SBS Transit. The exercise is organised by Land Transport Authority and often presents challenging scenarios that involve both operators – Scenarios that neither operators want to see happen, but must be prepared for.
This time, Greyhound took place at Tiong Bahru, Outram and Buona Vista stations simulating the loss of service on SMRT’s East-West Line and SBST Transit’s North-East Line. Greyhound tests not only each company’s plans for service recovery but also the ability for both companies to work together.
Pulldown signs on free bus services at Tiong Bahru MRT Station
“Exercise Greyhound was a good experience as it puts to actual practice our emergency response plans for a major train disruption scenario. This really builds confidence and proficiency for the station staff, myself included, as this is the first time I am acting as an Incident Officer.” Said Service Operations Manager, Llewellyn Chong. Llewellyn takes care of SMRT Station Operations from Dover to Queenstown and shared that exercises are carried out regularly, albeit not all are on the same scale as Exercise Greyhound, “Some commuters are alarmed when they see the yellow signs. After we explain that services are running as normal and that we are just practicing, many say that it’s a good idea.”
Buses are activated as an alternative mode of transport when train services are affected. During disruptions, two types of bus services may be made available. Bus bridging services will mirror the affected train service route and bring commuters from train station to train station. Free bus services may also be activated. This refers free rides on the regular bus services, regardless of operator, that usually call at the designated bus stop.
SMRT President and Group CEO Desmond Kuek, who was also on site during the exercise was pleased to see the team working well together for the exercise. “Emergency preparedness exercises such as Greyhound allow us to test our contingency plans on a regular basis with a number of agencies. At SMRT, we run similar exercises to test the readiness of operations and maintenance staff. Each staff member at each station, for instance, is tested at least once in three months. We also run exercises to test our more senior management staff, who are in charge of the Emergency Response Team, with challenging scenarios.
Today’s exercise tests SMRT’s contingency plans for service recovery, in the event of a disruption. For example, how quickly Station Staff and the Crisis Support Team members can put up directional signage at the stations and guide commuters to bus stops that support free bus services and the special trunk services.”