SINGAPORE: SMRT has acknowledged procedure was not followed in the lead-up to an accident which killed two of its trainee staff on Tuesday (Mar 22). It also released a timeline of events before the tragedy.
According to safety procedures, before the team can step on the trackway, it must coordinate with the Signal unit at the station for oncoming trains to be brought to a stop, and to ensure that no trains enter the affected area. However, SMRT noted that its records do not show that this procedure took place.
This echoes a point made by SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek and its Managing Director for Trains Lee Ling Wee at a press conference on Tuesday, where they confirmed the incident happened before the team made the necessary contact to turn power off on the tracks. The reason for this is the subject of investigations, they said.
“Exactly how they got on to the track, or got close enough to the oncoming train, that was moving in the direction opposite to them, is the issue that we’re trying to establish with the witnesses that we are trying to get detailed accounts from,” said Mr Kuek on Tuesday.
SMRT TIMELINE OF EVENTS
The transport operator's timeline of events is as follows:
- At 8.08am on Tuesday (Mar 22), a signalling condition monitoring device installed along the tracks near Pasir Ris MRT Station registered a warning.
- At 10.54am, authorisation was granted for the Permanent Way team and the Signal team to move down from the station platform, cross the track, and access the maintenance walkway in order to proceed to the location of the device.
- The 15 members comprised 1 engineer, 5 assistant engineers, 5 technical officers and 4 trainees. Led by an experienced assistant engineer, they moved in a single file along the maintenance walkway (of approximately 0.5 metre width) beside the track toward the device location. They followed the safety procedure of walking in the direction facing oncoming train traffic.
- The two staff that died - Nasrulhudin and Muhammad Asyraf - were following immediately behind the lead assistant engineer.
- Before the team is allowed to step back on to the trackway, the following procedure must be carried out: The team must coordinate with the Signal unit at the station for oncoming trains to be brought to a stop and to ensure that no trains enter the affected sector. SMRT records do not show that this procedure took place, it said.
- Pasir Ris MRT station is a terminal station with two platforms. Trains arriving at Pasir Ris can berth at either platform. Trains can cross from one track to the other as they approach the station. In this accident, the train moving in automatic mode was routed to Platform 2. When the train captain saw staff on the track, he immediately applied emergency brakes but was unable to prevent the accident.
- The accident took place at 11.08am and was immediately reported to the Operations Control Centre
An SMRT spokesman told Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday that the company is unable to confirm if the victims were on the trackway or on the walkway when they were hit, or if anyone in the group had deviated from the walkway at any point in time.
SMRT said this is the first time a fatality involving SMRT staff has happened on the North-South East-West Lines. It has established a team to immediately evaluate all workplace safety procedures and has also instituted mandatory work-team level safety reviews.
Questions have been raised on why staff were on the track to investigate an alarm while trains were running. SMRT said: "Delivering a high level of reliability in our network is a priority and maintenance has to be carried out during service hours to ensure this. Whenever there is a warning registered along the network during train service, maintenance staff are given track access to investigate the cause.
An average of two to three such authorisations are given each day, it said. "At no time do we compromise the safety of staff and commuters in our efforts to keep up the required service standards," SMRT added. "Safety procedures are in place and we are mindful that these need to be followed closely as they are intended for staff and commuter well-being and protection."
SMRT said it is continuing to support police and the Ministry of Manpower in investigations. "We take responsibility and apologise for the tragic accident," it stated.