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Singapore - MRT

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 Kong.

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 extra benefits.

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Source: López, M.J.J., Crime Prevention Guidelines for the Construction & Management of Metro Systems, Den Haag: RCM-advies 1996, pg. 35-39.

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