MRT tunnel flooding: A timeline of events

MRT tunnel flooding: A timeline of events

smrt collage
Train services were disrupted for more than 20 hours on Oct 7 and 8, affecting more than a quarter of a million commuters. (Photos: Social media, SCDF, LTA) 

SINGAPORE: Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan spoke at length in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 7) about the MRT tunnel flooding incident which occurred along the North-South Line, disrupting train services for about 20 hours on Oct 7 and 8.

In his ministerial statement, Mr Khaw gave details about what exactly happened and the scale of the problem. Here's a timeline of events: 


5.14pm: An "alert" SMRT train captain Choo Ah Heng reports flooding on the southbound tunnel tracks between Bishan and Braddell MRT stations. 

5.27pm: The station manager at Braddell MRT reports the same issue on northbound tracks. 

5.30pm: SMRT's Operations Control Centre (OCC) suspends train services between Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh MRT stations in both directions. 

5.38pm: SMRT reports that water at the deepest section of the track had risen to a level that almost meets the electrified third rail. The system is designed such that the power would automatically be cut off if water levels rise past the third rail. 

5.50pm: Train services are suspended between Marina South Pier and Newton MRT stations in both directions in an unrelated incident, when Mr Choo Ah Heng - the same train captain who reported the flooding - spots a small fire at the trackside between Raffles Place and Marina Bay MRT stations. SMRT later says the Singapore Civil Defence Force was activated within minutes to Marina Bay. However, the fire had died out by itself, SMRT says.

6.05pm: SMRT announces on Twitter that train services in both directions between 13 stations from Ang Mo Kio to Marina South Pier are suspended.

7.32pm: SMRT gives first confirmation that the NSL train services were disrupted due to “water in the tunnel from Bishan to Braddell MRT stations”.

"The SMRT OCC staff did the right thing and handled the difficult situation well. Chief controller, Mr Tan Kwong Chye, took the decision to detrain the commuters and cut off the traction power to the affected tracks between Bishan and Braddell soon after receiving the first reports of flooding," said Mr Khaw in Parliament on Tuesday. 

"Train service controller, Mr Tan Ming Hui, single-handedly managed both incidents at Bishan and Marina South Pier, ensuring that train services north of Ang Mo Kio continued to run."

smrt train in flooded tunnel
An SMRT train in a flooded MRT tunnel, in a photo widely circulated on social media. 

9.22pm: Train services between Newton and Marina South Pier are restored.

10.45pm: SMRT says train services from Newton to Ang Mo Kio stations in both directions are not available till end of service on Saturday. It says engineers will carry out network-wide tunnel checks throughout the night.


8.32am: SMRT says work to clear water in the tunnels between Bishan and Braddell MRT stations is still in progress and the effort requires more time.

10.09am: The water between Braddell and Bishan MRT stations is “almost cleared” thanks to overnight efforts from teams from the SCDF, PUB, Land Transport Authority and SMRT.

11.06am: Flood waters are cleared to a safe level. 

1.36pm: Train services fully resume, after safety and operational tests and checks to the tracks are complete.

1.52pm: SMRT announces that train services in both directions between Newton and Ang Mo Kio MRT stations resumed at 1.50pm.

5.07pm: LTA's preliminary investigations reveal that a water pumping system malfunction resulted in flooding between Bishan and Braddell stations.


6.30pm: SMRT's maintenance team has "failed us", says Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan at a press conference to address the incident. He reveals that the Land Transport Authority and SMRT had, in fact, on Sep 29, made a decision to replace the pumps. 

“So we are late by a few days. Had they proceeded to replace (the pumps) this thing might not even have happened," Mr Khaw said. 

Infographic: How the MRT tunnel flooded

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek also apologises to commuters affected by the Oct 7 disruption. 

He adds that he takes full responsibility for the incident. 

SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming adds that the leader of the team in charge of anti-flooding maintenance was removed, and the bonuses of the team's members will be affected. 


5.45pm: SMRT investigations show that maintenance works for the Bishan portal sump pump system were not properly carried out since December last year. 

Maintenance records were signed off and submitted, but the public transport operator's probe showed there were no track access approvals issued. Pump records for the same dates show that the pumps were not activated on those days, SMRT says.

SMRT Bishan storm water pit
Water pump at the Bishan storm water pit. (Photo: LTA)

8.40pm: LTA says it is "deeply concerned" about the suspected falsification of maintenance records, adding that it is carrying out a full investigation into the incident.


2.19pm: SMRT says six staff members - including a manager, an engineering supervisor and four crew members from the Building and Facilities Maintenance group - will face disciplinary proceedings. It adds that an inquiry is being conducted against seven other managerial staff, including two executives at the vice-president level. All of them have been suspended.

6.30pm: In a written parliamentary reply, Mr Khaw says there is no evidence of shortcomings in regulatory oversight by LTA or his ministry. 


1.17pm: Mr Khaw delivers a ministerial statement in Parliament, where he details the reasons behind the incident, along with the punishments meted out and ensuing steps taken by authorities. 

He revealed that besides Bishan, some water pump systems at Kembangan and Lavender "were not in serviceable condition".

As for the Oct 7 flooding incident, there will not be a Committee of Inquiry as the facts "are not complicated" and the cause of the incident "is clear".

"The SMRT team responsible for maintaining the Bishan storm water sump pit had neglected their duties, falsified records and failed us," he told the House.

Source: CNA/dl