The North South Line breakdown was not meant to be a crisis. Some have called it the worst incident to have happened. Yes it was a major breakdown, but the worst is yet to come. How about two trains collided, trained jumps rail and smashes into the tunnel wall causing the wall to collapse, commuters injured and trapped, water flooding the tunnel with packed trains?
With the extensive network of trains running above and under the ground, breakdown is going to happen every now and then. It is unacceptable, but machines will have its wear and tear, there will be human errors in small little things like connecting a wrong wire or improper wiring, or power failure or something else.
What failed badly and turning a power failure into a fiasco is the poor execution of an emergency evacuation plan. Presumably there is a plan to evacuate the commuters in a situation like this, then the failure is leadership. Who is to decide that it is a crisis and the emergency plan be activated? Apparently everyone was trying to do something but evacuating the commuters was not in their minds.
And to make matter worst, the backup power supply did not come in or was found grossly inadequate. A 45 min UPS unit is really much less than that as events would have to unfold and by the time management decides that it is serious, at least half an hour would have elapsed. The 45 min window must be a critical factor for the emergency team to work on in a situation when the train is packed with people and life could be at stake.
And I think they discovered that the emergency ventilation was also grossly under provided given the complaints of difficulties in breaking. If normal people have difficulties, the sick, the young and old would be in deeper trouble. The ventilation must be good enough to keep a fully packed train at peak hours for at least a couple of hours safe before rescue arrived. If management consciously provided a 45 min backup system, the emergency plan must take that into account to start evacuating people much earlier before the backup system dies.
I am not going to suggest that train drivers be renamed train captains like pilots and be trained and proficient to handle an emergency like this. But they must be trained and tasked to take control of such situation to manage the commuters and take immediate safety precautions. Apparently they were sitting in their cabins waiting for instructions and leaving the frightened and worried passengers on their own.
When the lighting was out, when the passengers were having difficulties breathing, the most stupid thing was to tell the commuters that there was ventilation as the ventilation was either not working or inadequate and people were suffocating. People would not die just because the train is not moving. People will die if they cannot breath even inside the safety of a train.
The whole mess could be avoided if someone had decided to activate the evacuation procedure early and get the commuters out safely. The delay to act was the main factor that contributed to the crisis and endangered the safety and lives of the commuters. The power failure was just a power failure.
The event could be just an exciting experience like an emergency drill if handled correctly, efficiently and timely. And the commuters would just have a great story to tell, without fear of anything worst, except some inconvenience.