Thursday 28 January 2016

LRT train door mishap exposes design flaw

MRT trains cannot be driven if a door is not locked; action against driver for not taking enough care
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2016

Transport operator SMRT Corp yesterday shed light on how a door of a Bukit Panjang LRT train could have been flung open during a journey between stations last week, suggesting that the cause of the incident was a design flaw in the system.

The incident last Friday morning occurred after a signalling fault during commuting hours forced SMRT staff to override the driverless Bukit Panjang LRT system and drive the trains manually.

But while the SMRT staff member who took over the driving of the train had checked that all doors were fully closed before moving off, he failed to ensure that they were locked and that the "Doors locked" light on the train console had come on. At 6.47am, the door at the rear of the two-car train opened while it was travelling from Bukit Panjang station towards Senja station.

This caused the train's safety system to apply the emergency brakes.

The door was then closed manually by the driver and the train continued on its journey. SMRT spokesman Patrick Nathan said disciplinary action has since been taken against the employee.

SMRT noted that trains on other lines, namely the North-South, East-West and Circle lines, cannot be driven if any one of their doors is not locked.

"We would like to assure all passengers that trains serving the Circle Line and North-South and East-West lines are designed to ensure all doors are closed and locked before moving off in both automatic and manual modes," said Mr Nathan.

Referring to the Bukit Panjang LRT, he said: "We are also exploring with LTA (Land Transport Authority) and (train manufacturer) Bombardier on improving the (system's) design such that trains in manual mode cannot move until all doors are closed and locked."

He added that "operating procedures for manual driving of LRT trains will be reinforced".

Passengers on the affected LRT train had also complained that the train's intercom system was not working at the time of the incident.

SMRT said the intercom system was linked to the line's signalling system, again a peculiarity of the Bukit Panjang LRT system.

Mr Nathan said: "SMRT is working with the LTA and Bombardier to install an independent communication system that can work even during a signal fault. 

"In the meantime, the phone number of the Bukit Panjang LRT Operations Control Centre will be made available in each (train) car so that passengers can quickly reach SMRT staff through their mobile phones, if the onboard telephone is inoperable. We apologise for the incident," he added.

Bukit Panjang LRT door opens while moving towards Senja station
By Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

The door of an LRT train opened while the train was in operation on Friday morning, alarming commuters.

The incident coincided with a five-hour service disruption on the Bukit Panjang LRT from about 5.50am to close to 11am on Friday (Jan 22).

Inner loop Service B of the line was down for that duration, and only service A was in operation. The Straits Times understands that the disruption was due to a "signalling fault".

A photo of the door opening incident was posted on Twitter and Facebook by student Dilla Damitra. It happened at 6.46am when the train was travelling from Bukit Panjang to Senja, she tweeted.

"Thank you for scaring me early in the morning with a sudden jerk leading to this door opening. What a way to start a Friday," Ms Dilla wrote on Facebook.

When contacted, Ms Dilla, 16, told The Straits Times: "I was definitely shocked because I didn't see that coming. Luckily, no one was standing by the door at the time."

Another student, Nurul Nadhirah, 15, posted a second photo of the open door in response to Ms Dilla's tweet.

She said that the train was stuck with the door open for about 20 minutes between Bukit Panjang and Senja stations.

"Everyone stumbled and I could see fear in everyone's eyes, especially on a young girl. She skidded but was quickly pulled by a lady," Ms Nurul said.

"I was scared because... there were a few people standing near the doors and I was afraid they might fall out of the train."

Ms Nurul said the passengers had problems accessing the emergency phone.

"The box was really hard to open and I wanted to give up, but I could see that if I do not give my all we will be stuck there until the next train arrived," she said.

But when they gained access to the phone, it was not functioning, according to both students. Eventually, a woman called SMRT on her mobile phone to report the problem, Ms Dilla said.

An LRT staff member appeared soon after that to check the doors, and drove them to Senja station, Ms Nurul said.

At Senja station, the doors opened and closed repeatedly, and an announcement said that they were at Teck Whye station, Ms Nurul said.

Many passengers alighted at Senja but she continued on the train to Jelapang station where she alighted, she said.

Ms Nurul, who attends West Spring Secondary School, was a few minutes late, but she said her principal was informed that there was an LRT service disruption.

When contacted, SMRT said that their staff reacted quickly to the incident.

"When our staff was alerted to the incident, he quickly boarded the affected train-car to check that passengers were safe, before closing the door and driving the train back to the station. We are investigating the incident," said Mr Patrick Nathan, SMRT vice-president of corporate information and communications.

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