Saturday, 21 April 2012

MRT breakdown COI: Day 4

No crisis training given, say drivers
Two drivers say they were not prepared to deal with emergencies
By Maria Almenoar, The Straits Times, 20 Apr 2012

THE two drivers on the trains with the most severely inconvenienced passengers during December's train disruptions revealed yesterday that they had not been trained to deal with emergency situations.

Neither of them turned on the emergency ventilation switch that would have improved air circulation on board the stalled and increasingly stuffy trains.

But beyond this, the stories of what each of the two drivers did or did not do, making a difference for the passengers on their trains, emerged on Day Four of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearing yesterday.

Mr Hardy Afandie, 45, a driver with 24 years of experience, found his train stalled between Somerset and Orchard stations on the North-South line on the evening of Dec 15.

In the next 45 minutes, he did not once look through the louvres on his driver's door to check on passengers. When asked why, he said he was trying to fix the train's problems and also feared for his safety and the safety of passengers.

When asked to clarify this, he said: 'I was worried that if I opened the door, passengers might rush into the driving cab and they might fall down.'

Eventually, one passenger smashed a window in a carriage to let air in.

Mr Hardy explained to the three-man committee that he had not been trained on how to care for passengers in emergency situations.

His fellow driver Mohamad Alwi Sirat, 51, also with 24 years of experience, found himself in a similar emergency situation that day. But when his train stalled near Dhoby Ghaut, he walked through the train to check on his passengers.

When approached by a passenger claiming to be asthmatic, he took her to rest in his cabin.

Mr Alwi, who was commended by the committee for what he did, said he too did not receive training on how to handle passengers in such a situation, and had no manual to refer to.

When asked by COI chairman Tan Siong Thye on what he wanted as a train driver, he replied: 'Maybe more training for us to handle emergency situations.'

The committee also heard from Mr Hardy that he believed that his train had air-conditioning because the train's voltage indicator was on.

This was despite passengers telling him it was stuffy on board.

Mr Alwi and another train driver, Mr Aw Thiam Huat, 45, told the committee that drivers can, at their own discretion, flip the switch for emergency ventilation.

This ventilation would kick in on top of the automatic ventilation that comes on when a train loses power and is running on auxiliary power.

Controllers focused on moving stalled trains, evacuation
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 20 Apr 2012

COMMUTERS who were stuck in stalled MRT trains on Dec 15 and mystified why few updates came their way had some answers yesterday.

On Day Four of the public hearings, staff from SMRT Operations Control Centre (OCC) took the stand for the first time and gave an insight into what happened in the nerve centre as the events of Dec 15 unfolded.

The Committee of Inquiry (COI) heard that staff prioritised one thing above all else: moving stalled trains and evacuating passengers from them.

The testimonies also revealed several shortcomings in the nerve centre that hampered staff from responding better to the spate of train breakdowns.

OCC chief controller Moksin Mahsan, 49, told the committee he heard that some commuters had complained about feeling warm, but his focus was to move stalled trains off the tracks and get people out of the trains.

He left it to train drivers to inform him if any other situation arose in the trains. No such reports came and he was too focused on other areas to ask train officers about their passengers.

'I tried my best to control the situation,' he said in his witness statement. 'The situation was complex and we were required to shift our focus from one position to another.'

Second Solicitor-General Lionel Yee asked if the OCC could make announcements directly to individual trains.

Mr Moksin said there was only one radio set in the OCC that could make announcements to either individual trains or MRT stations - but not at the same time.

That evening, announcements were mostly made to MRT stations to keep commuters informed about the disruption, he said.

To work around the OCC's inability to broadcast simultaneously, he said train officers were directed to make announcements on their trains.

The sheer scale of the disruptions on Dec 15 had left staff perplexed at first. The first train stalled at around 6.48pm, and two others soon followed.

Mr Moksin said he 'could not fathom' what could have caused three trains to stall concurrently after checks showed that the rail system's power had not failed.

OCC staff realised the severity of the problem only when a driver who was directed to use his train to push a stalled train reported at 7.07pm that a segment of the third rail had sagged. Trains draw power from the third rail via current collector shoes.

SMRT senior management and staff received alerts at around 7.20pm, and vice-president of rail operations Lui Wai Meng activated its Rail Incident Management Plan at around 7.23pm.

Once activated, key personnel and support staff are recalled and some emergency procedures kick in.

The plan should have been activated sooner, said COI chairman Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye, who noted that many passengers enter the MRT network every minute.

The volume of crowds at affected stations was one of the issues flagged during last December's breakdown.

In response to queries from the committee, Mr Moksin admitted OCC staff could do with more accurate information to diagnose problems on the ground.

For instance, inaccurate information from train officers about a fault would lead to incorrect troubleshooting, he said. He added that it would be useful if the OCC could have a panel indicating whether the current collector shoes on individual trains were damaged.

Voltage indicator showed train had power
ON DEC 15 at 6.40pm, I drove northbound train 139 from Marina Bay towards Yishun.

I departed City Hall station at around 6.44pm, and after some 200m to 300m saw that my master fault indicator was on. When I checked the fault panel behind, I saw the converter and power fault lights lit up in orange.

Two other fault lights came on when I was about 150m to 200m from Dhoby Ghaut, and the Operations Control Centre (OCC) instructed me to try and rectify the faults... At Dhoby Ghaut, I did an auxiliary reset and the faults cleared. But when I was 400m from Somerset, the same four indicators lit up again. I contacted the OCC but got no response. Train 139 came to a stop about 50m from Orchard station.

The OCC told me to try and drive into the station but my train could not move at all... The OCC asked me about my line voltage indicator. I saw it was lighted up in green, which meant the train was receiving electricity. I then made announcements every few minutes. After 15 minutes, several passengers pressed the emergency communications button and told me it was very warm...

For security reasons, I didn't open my cabin door. I didn't physically check if the lights and air-conditioning was on, as I saw that the line voltage indicator was still green, which meant the train still had traction power. Based on my training, if a train still has traction power the lights and air-con should be okay.

I tried to call the OCC but could not... I then saw train 112 coming from Orchard station. OCC informed me that the trains would be coupled, and train 112 hauled my train 139 to Orchard station. There, I began going cabin to cabin to open the train doors manually to allow passengers to alight. I didn't see anyone left behind or injured, and I could feel the air-con and saw the lights were on.

I later discovered that a glass panel was smashed and a fire extinguisher had been removed. I did not hear any sound when I was in my cabin, and don't know who did it. It was then that I thought it was possible that the air-con and lights were not working though the lights were illuminated, and someone had smashed the glass to allow fresh air in.

'I walked out to show commuters I was around'
ON DEC 15, I drove northbound train 134 from Marina Bay station. The journey was smooth until City Hall station.
As the train moved out of the station, I heard a loud, continuous sound. I was shocked because it was not a normal shrieking frictional sound. It sounded like plastic being dragged.

My train began to slow down from 70kmh and stopped 150m from the tail wall of Dhoby Ghaut station, at 6.47pm.

The master fault indicator lit up and I heard what sounded like a circuit breaker tripping. A number of fault buttons lit up.

The train was now operating on auxiliary power and the emergency lighting came on.

I was perspiring and worried, and contacted the train service controller (TSC).

The TSC instructed me to make a public announcement to passengers that the train was delayed due to a train fault. I also asked the passengers to stay calm and opened my cabin door to assure them I was in the train.

I walked through it to assess the situation. Worried passengers told me it was stuffy but because of the chaotic situation, it did not cross my mind to turn on the emergency ventilation.

A woman told me she was asthmatic so I took her to my cabin.

I also kept the operations control centre informed of what was happening on board my train but they did not seem convinced that I had done enough to troubleshoot. I felt I had done enough.

I was told the Dhoby Ghaut station manager would help with the detrainment of my passengers once the track was free of electrical current.

I told the passengers to get ready to walk along the track to Dhoby Ghaut station. There were over 1,000 passengers.

The tunnel was lit with yellow lights but it was very dim and passengers had to walk very carefully in order not to trip.

It was only when I saw the Singapore Civil Defence Force personnel taking a person away on a stretcher that I realised someone had fainted on my train.

The detrainment took about half an hour.

No comments:

Post a Comment