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Standard protocol for staff to use track walkways to investigate faults: CEO

Two maintenance staff died while undergoing on-the-job training on Tuesday morning (Mar 22). SMRT says it is reviewing safety protocols.

SINGAPORE: Two trainee SMRT maintenance staff that were killed on the East West MRT line had been hit by an oncoming train, SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek said in a news conference on (Mar 22). The incident happened about 150 metres away from Pasir Ris MRT station.

The victims were part of a group of 15 that had been sent to investigate an alarm for signalling equipment. Track access was authorised and the men had been on the walkway alongside the track, SMRT Trains' managing director Lee Ling Wee said.


The width of the walkway next to the track is about 0.5 metres wide. (Image: SMRT)

"Normally when that happens there's track access, they request for track authorisation from the Operations Control Centre. When given, they will then proceed to the track. In this instance, that was given. The power was supposed to be switched off when they reached the location but unfortunately the accident happened before they actually reached the site where they were supposed to do the investigation," said Mr Lee.

In a statement on Facebook late on Tuesday night, SMRT said all staff members - be it trainee or permanent staff - are trained on safety protocols before walking on the track. 

"In this case, we are trying to establish with witnesses how the team got onto the track or got close enough to the oncoming train that was moving in the direction opposite to them," the transport operator said, adding that they are reviewing safety protocols currently in place. 

THE FACTS SO FAR

  • All 15 maintenance staff were walking in single-file, along the side of the train tracks, on the walkway.

  • They were following protocol by walking against the direction of the train.

  • The group was headed by the supervisor, and the two staff that were killed were second and third in line.

  • The group, which had received permission to go down to the tracks, had gotten to about 150m away from the Pasir Ris station platform when the incident took place.

  • The incident happened before the group could ask for permission to turn the power off on the tracks to stop the trains from moving.

  • The two staff were hit by an oncoming train, moving toward Pasir Ris, in the direction opposite to them.

  • The train in the incident was just pulling into the station, travelling at about 60km per hour.

  • There is no CCTV footage on that part of the track, and SMRT is in the process of getting detailed accounts from witnesses.

“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.

He added that it was "standard" procedure and routine for people to be on the track to investigate a fault when trains are running, but with permission sought. 

According to Mr Lee, there are rules in place that need to be observed when staff members head down to the tracks. This applies to all staff members, including trainees and permanent staff, he said, adding that they are all trained on safety issues before they walk onto the track. 

Staff members have to be in constant contact with the Operations Command Centre as part of the safety protocol, he added. In this instance, the men were supposed to ask for second permission when they reached the location of the investigation, but the accident had happened before they arrived. 


The accident occurred about 150 metres from where the staff accessed the track. (Image: SMRT)

“We need to establish what exactly is the reason why despite their following the protocols, what exactly went wrong in the actual behavior on the ground which caused them to be hit by the train," said Mr Kuek.

Mr Kuek also said that train drivers get alerts about activities that are taking place along the trackway, and how the incident happened in spite of this, will be part of the investigation.

SMRT spokesperson Patrick Nathan added that the public transport company's CEO and MD of trains will visit the families of deceased staff on Tuesday evening. SMRT is also providing counseling to all staff directly involved, including the train captain involved. 

HAPPENING NOW: SMRT Press conference on Pasir Ris train incident, which killed two staff members. bit.ly/1VyGl7P#FBLIVE

Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Tuesday, 22 March 2016