Wednesday, 23 July 2014

SMRT fined $1.6 million for four train disruptions

SBS Transit gets $50,000 fine for one incident resulting in power trip
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 22 Jul 2014

SMRT was yesterday hit with a $1.6 million fine by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), over four train service disruptions.

Taken together, it is the second highest fine meted out by the authority on a rail operator after the $2 million incurred, also by SMRT, for two massive breakdowns in December 2011.

The Singapore-listed firm was fined $400,000 and $900,000 for two "serious safety breaches" that occurred on Oct 9 last year and Jan 22 this year respectively.

In these cases, SMRT trains on the East West Line, which were driven manually, damaged a track point after they failed to stop at a red signal light. This led to service disruptions of more than an hour on both occasions.

On top of the drivers failing to stop, the SMRT operations control centre was also slow to respond and hence unable to prevent the trains from damaging the tracks, added the LTA.

SMRT was also fined $200,000 and $100,000 for disruptions in January and May this year respectively. Both occurred on the North South Line, and were caused by human error.

Rival SBS Transit, which runs a smaller rail network, fared better. It has to pay a $50,000 fine for a disruption on March 21 that was caused by staff carrying out maintenance works, which resulted in a power trip.

LTA group director for public transport Yeo Teck Guan said all five incidents were "fully preventable if the operators had exercised due diligence and vigilance".

The authority will scrutinise the operators' training regimes more closely, and carry out more checks and audits, he added.

The fines, it seems, would hit SMRT where it hurts most. Its rail business reported just $5.5 million in operating profit in its latest financial year, a sharp drop from $65.1 million the year before due to higher operating costs. Its overall net earnings are at an 11-year low of $61.9 million.

SMRT spokesman Patrick Nathan said it has tightened its operating procedures and enhanced its training regimes. This includes requiring train drivers to double-check every instruction when driving in manual mode, he said.

SBS Transit spokesman Tammy Tan said it has tightened its processes "to ensure that such a lapse is not repeated".

The fines will be donated to the Public Transport Fund to help the needy with transport fares.

Dr Park Byung Joon, who teaches urban transport management at SIM University, said complacency could have been a factor behind the human errors. He added that reliability has improved overall, given the greater emphasis placed on maintenance.

The fines come on the back of latest figures that show a slight increase in the number of delays lasting five minutes or more per 100,000km in the first half of this year. This was mainly due to more faults occurring on the older North South and East West lines.

There were 1.27 delays above five minutes per 100,000km in the first quarter of this year and 1.21 delays in the second, up from 1.18 last year. On the plus side, the number of trains withdrawn from service fell from 2.2 per 100,000km last year to 1.3 in the second quarter of this year.

But the eight delays of 30 minutes or more in the first half of this year were flagged by Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chairman Cedric Foo. This figure, he noted, had already matched the total seen last year and in 2012, and both rail operators should "pay heed to that".

LTA Takes Action against Rail Operators for Service Disruptions -21 Jul 2014

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