Crime prevention measures
In sharp contrast to the metro system of Hong Kong, no special
attention was paid to crime prevention requirements during the
planning and construction of the MRT system. However, there was
special attention paid to fire prevention, minimalization of maintenance,
discouragement of loitering, creation of a friendly atmosphere,
and energy-efficient use of air conditioners. And each and every
field of attention had (unintended) spins-offs favourable in producing
conditions desirable for the prevention of crime.
Fire prevention was the most important consideration in the construction
phase of the Mass Rapid Transit system of Singapore. The MRT used
for this the guidelines of the American National Fire Prevention
Authorities (NFPA), which were established for enhancing fire
safety within metro systems. The guidelines contain criteria concerning
the availability of emergency exits (<600m), evacuation time
(max. 6 min.), escalators, and other design features. The NFPA
criteria ask for an open construction of the metro station, which
in turn is a very important crime prevention requirement. The
big difference with the MTR system in Hong Kong is that when the
Hong Kong system was built, the planners did not have the benefit
of the NFPA code. In Hong Kong, one of the (few) weak points in
situational crime prevention is the narrow design of the escalators.
Thanks to the NFPA code, the planners in Singapore knew that escalators
don't have to be constructed narrow to be fire-safe.
As in Hong Kong, minimalization of maintenance was considered
to be another important consideration in the construction of the
metro system. The difference is, however, that this principle
is pushed even farther in Singapore. Smoking, eating, and chewing
gum are not allowed in the system. The maximum penalty for offending
against these rules is S$500. The architecture of the Singaporean
MRT system is probably the most beautiful and clean of all metro
systems in the world. Unwary visitors paying a first time visit
to a MRT station might even get the impression of walking into
a first class hotel. The floors are made of granite and most of
the walls are covered with marble. Shining stainless steel is
applied plentifully. The floors are made of granite, which is
expensive to buy, but solid, durable, easy to maintain, and therefore
cheaper in the long run. It also looks beautiful. Only materials
that can be easily maintained are chosen. Singapore is the first
and only metro system in the world which introduced platform screen
doors everywhere. The reason for this is the tropical climate,
which necessitates air conditioning the year round. The platform
screen doors are a measure to save energy from the airconditioning.
Pleasant side effects are, however, cleanliness, safety, prevention
of suicides, and the limitation of criminal escape routes (they
can't flee into the tunnel).
As in Hong Kong, serious effort is paid to discourage loitering
within the metro system. This is done by putting a time limit
on the tickets, limiting seat, and (in contrast to Hong Kong)
by regulating the temperature of the air conditioning in such
a way that it gets more comfortable in phases as one travels from
the entrance to the inside of the train. The motivations for embracing
the strategy of discouraging loitering are, again, commercial.
After all, by discouraging loitering, flows of passengers can
be created that are both faster and more fluent, congestion is
reduced, and more passengers can be transported in shorter periods
of time. The crime prevention spin-offs are, however, also considerable.
Discouragement of loitering reduces the opportunity for criminals
to track and pin down their potential victims while imposing an
unstriking posture. For potential victims and interferers, on
the other hand, it enhances the opportunity to notice potentially
dangerous people and situations and take preventive action.
The last consideration of the planners of the Singaporean MRT
system was the creation of a friendly atmosphere. Like everywhere
in Singapore, littering is an offense and met with a high fine.
The system is kept absolutely spotless. Columns are limited to
create an open and airy atmosphere. On the East line (which
is above ground), columns are not needed because of an arch construction.
This construction is a bit more expensive, but makes the atmosphere
more open. In the future, slender columns will be incorporated
into the platform screen doors. Lighting levels are kept high
and in a way that enhances aesthetic aspects. Only high quality
materials are used. Art is applied abundantly and is well integrated
into the architecture. And (very interesting and exemplary for
all other transit systems), green and flowering plants (orchids)
are kept with hydroculture and special lighting.
Apart from the above mentioned points there are a few other striking
similarities and differences between the MTR in Hong Kong and
the MRT in Singapore. When the plans for the MRT were still in
an early stage, a delegation of Singaporeans went around the world
and gathered all the good ideas that crossed their way. When observing
the contemporary MRT system, it becomes obvious that especially
(but not solely) much was learned from the MTR system of Hong
Perhaps the most interesting adoption from Hong Kong was the
open construction of the trains. As in Hong Kong, cars are linked
by interior gangways which are not obstructed by doors or other
barriers. Seats are arranged lengthwise along the sides of the
car. The consideration was, again, not crime prevention- but commercial-oriented:
the enhancement of an equal distribution of passengers through
the train and the reduction of maintenance costs. Obviously, there
was the occurrence of an unintended though positive crime prevention
spin-off here as well. The idea of open trains was, however, not
simply copied by the Singaporeans, but adapted to their own ideas.
Hong Kong trains consist of 8 cars with 5 pairs of doors each.
In Singapore, this was limited to 6 cars with 4 pairs of doors.
Unlike the train seats in Hong Kong which are made from stainless
steel, Singapore has constructed train seats from fibreglass.
The smoke is not toxic in case the seats are burned. There is
room to put luggage under the MRT train seats, while this is not
possible in the similar MTR trains.
Apart from the several improvements of the Hong Kong concept,
there were also a few differences between the two systems in which
Singapore lags behind in certain aspects of the good MTR example.
The big police presence typical of the system in Hong Kong is
absolutely absent in the Singaporean MRT. Unlike Hong Kong, there
is no special police division for the MRT system. A second disadvantage
for crime prevention is the fact that Singapore has no Passenger
Service Booths on the platforms. Most of the time, the platforms
are not manned. There are, however, permanent manned Station Control
Rooms at the console similar to the ones in Hong Kong.
Overall, it can be concluded that the Mass Rapid Transit Corporation
of Singapore has succeeded in building a metro system which accommodates
an excellent set of crime prevention requirements while pursuing
more commercial goals. This very remarkable conclusion overtly
shows that the incorporation of crime prevention requirements
in the construction and management of metro systems can very well
be combined with other goals, such as fire prevention, improvement
of passenger services, minimalization of maintenance costs, increase
of ridership, and increase of passenger revenue. Crime control
may seem an expensive expenditure, but when the right strategies
are chosen and correctly incorporated in a more general approach
of Total Quality Management, they certainly pay off and deliver