Thursday 26 April 2012

MRT breakdown COI: Day 7

Drivers working on Dec 17 were not briefed on earlier incident
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2012

SMRT train drivers told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) yesterday that when they reported for duty on Dec 17, the day of the second big disruption in train service, they were not given the details of the disruption that took place two days before.

They said they were mostly told to be more careful when driving the trains and to look out for irregularities, but received few details about the Dec 15 incident.

The three train drivers were among the 14 who testified yesterday, on Day 7 of the public hearings. The others who took the stand were SMRT station managers, two other train drivers and two commuters caught in the Dec15 disruption.

The five-hour disruption on the North-South line that day and the seven-hour one on Dec 17 hit 220,000 commuters in all. On both days, a section of the third rail sagged, damaging the current collector shoes of nine trains, which stalled.

Train driver Mohamed Redzuan said that his supervisor told him just before his shift began to 'be more alert' when driving the train. He added that he was not told to watch out specifically for problems that could arise from the current collector shoes or the third rail.

Train driver Mazli Abd Nasir said he was not given a proper briefing. But a supervisor told him, also without going into specifics, to watch out for irregularities on the track or the train.

During the hearing, deputy senior state counsel Edwin San sought to clarify the role of a train driver when passengers need to alight en masse from train to platform, or from the train onto the tracks within a tunnel.

The drivers said that if station staff are on hand to help passengers get off the train and onto the platform, they remain in the driver's cabin to shut the train doors after all the passengers have alighted.

Train driver James Lim, 37, said this is because other passengers could still board the train if the doors are not shut promptly enough, 'then you will have to start the detrainment process all over again'.

Train driver Masrudin Mat Salim, whose train stalled in the tunnel, said his priority was to ensure his passengers made it off the train and onto the tracks safely, and that no one was left behind.

He also explained that, in a detrainment, the headlights of the train are switched on to light up the tracks, supplementing existing tunnel lights. These headlights remain on even if the train is unable to draw electricity from the third rail. The headlights are, in this case, run on auxiliary power.

The matter of the number of leaflets with information on bus services kept in stations was also raised.

While questioning the station managers, COI member Lim Mong King noted that a train disruption information file at Orchard station stated that it should have 1,000 such leaflets, but that a similar file at Braddell station indicated it had no such leaflets.

It was not made clear yesterday if only selected stations carry these leaflets and which ones ought to have them.

The COI chairman, Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye, instructed the various parties to find out more about these leaflets, as they would be key in incident management and dispersing large crowds earlier.

No power, but air-conditioning was 'still working'
By Maria Almenoar, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2012

THE Committee of Inquiry (COI) was left puzzled yesterday by the account of a train driver whose train stalled near Somerset station on Dec 17.

Mr Masrudin Mat Salim had been at the controls of the train that morning when it stalled and started rolling backwards. The line-voltage indicator on the control panel of the train was not lit up, which meant the train was not receiving any power.

To this day, however, he insists that the air-conditioning and lights in the carriages were still on.

This is not as it should be.

When a train loses power, an auxiliary power system kicks in to provide emergency lighting, which is dimmer than the usual lights on board.

The auxiliary power system also provides ventilation - but not air-conditioning - for the next 45 minutes.

The COI tried to clarify the situation with Mr Masrudin, but he stood firm on what he saw that day.

'That's very strange,' commented Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye.

Mr Masrudin replied: 'I find it very strange too.'

Passengers pitched in to help woman who struggled to breathe
By Maria Almenoar, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2012

WHEN a train stalled on that fateful Dec 15 evening last year, commuters in a cabin were swift in coming to the aid of a passenger who struggled to breathe.

They gave her a sweet to suck, fanned her and gave up their seats for her to lie down.

The train heading north on the North-South line had just left City Hall, said Ms Charlene Ang yesterday.

The 42-year-old was recounting the strain she suffered to the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on Day 7 of the public inquiry into the two massive train disruptions in December.

The COI also heard from another commuter, Mr Lai Chin Liang, 41, who was left stranded at Braddell station on the same evening.

Ms Ang, a legal secretary, said she was on her way home to Punggol at about 6.45pm when the train stalled.

She was seated when the train jerked shortly after leaving City Hall and then ground to a halt.

The jerk 'was unlike any other' she had encountered on an MRT train.

'Nevertheless, I assumed the train had stopped probably because it had to wait for a train ahead of it to move off first,' she said.

Meanwhile, the smell of something burning filled the air and the lights in all the carriages to her right and some to her left went off.

The air-conditioning in the packed train also stopped, she said.

'I could not feel any fresh air entering the train, and I was already having difficulty breathing.'

She told this to a woman seated next to her, who then asked around and found a sweet that she handed to her.

It did not help. At 7.15pm, as her breathing became harder, two passengers started to fan her, using pieces of paper.

She overheard a passenger directing another to inform the train driver of her situation. By then, she was so weak, she lost her balance and slid off to her right.

Eyes shut, she was close to passing out when she heard a passenger telling people to give her some breathing room.

Passengers stood up for her to lie down across the train seats.

She could not remember how long it was before a train officer arrived and put an oxygen mask over her face before she was carried out of the train and taken to hospital. Court documents, however, stated that Singapore Civil Defence Force officers attended to her at about 7.45pm.

The incident has left her with a phobia, Ms Ang told reporters outside the court room. Now, whenever a train jerks, she gets the chills, fearing it may stall in the tunnel.

The ordeal for Mr Lai, a technology specialist, began at about 7pm, after his north-bound train from Raffles Place stopped at Braddell station.

He asked station staff how to get to his destination, Ang Mo Kio, and was told there would be a bus bridging service.

While waiting, he asked for a chair from an SMRT employee as he suffers from an orthopaedic condition, he said. He was not given one.

After waiting for about 11/2 hours, he found out that there was no such service for Braddell station. He said the station staff also refused to help him call for a taxi.

'It seemed the main concern of the SMRT staff was only to get passengers to leave the station,' he said.

'They did not seem to care what happened to the passengers after they left the station.'

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