Safety lapse in track accident, says SMRT

SCDF officers recovering the bodies of Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari near Pasir Ris MRT station on March 22.
SCDF officers recovering the bodies of Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari near Pasir Ris MRT station on March 22. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Trains should have been stopped from going into sector where track work was being done

A day after two of its trainees were hit and killed by an oncoming train just outside Pasir Ris station, SMRT has disclosed that a key safety procedure was not followed.

The rail operator revealed yesterday that a group of 15 technicians, including the victims, failed to notify a station signal unit that they were stepping back onto the track.

That meant a train travelling at 60kmh on an automatic mode was not diverted to an alternate platform or told to stop. The driver applied emergency brakes when he saw staff on the track, but it was too late.

"We take responsibility and apologise for the tragic accident," SMRT added in its statement released yesterday evening. This came just hours after Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, were buried at the Muslim cemetery in Lim Chu Kang.

SMRT said it has established a team to evaluate all workplace safety procedures and instituted mandatory work-team level safety reviews.

Tuesday's incident, which saw the station closed for three hours, left many puzzled on how the men could have been hit. SMRT had said initially that procedures were followed. The men, who were investigating a possible fault with a point machine used for trains to change tracks, were walking single-file on a 0.5m-wide access walkway alongside the track, and facing the direction of oncoming trains as they were supposed to. But after "carrying out investigations round the clock", SMRT yesterday revealed more on what had happened.

The 15 technical staff, including four trainees, were given permission at 10.54am to go onto the tracks. Mr Nasrulhudin and Mr Muhammad Asyraf were second and third in line, following an engineer leading the group towards the point machine.

"Before the team is allowed to step back on to the track, the following procedure must be carried out: The team must coordinate with the signal unit at the station for oncoming trains to be brought to a stop and to ensure that no trains enter the affected sector," SMRT said.

"Our records do not show that this procedure took place."

One of the men who was on the track on Tuesday, 24-year-old trainee Muhammad Hatin Kamil, told The Straits Times that the group was in the midst of crossing over the third rail to get to the tracks and point machine. The third rail provides power to the trains.

"We didn't realise that there was a train coming towards us... After I put my foot over the rail, my senior technical officer behind shouted: 'Train is coming! Train is coming!' "

He escaped onto the walkway, but saw Mr Nasrulhudin crushed under the train and Mr Muhammad Asyraf flung about 5m away.

SMRT said it is not uncommon for staff to be sent to the tracks while trains are running - authorisations are given two to three times a day.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'Safety lapse in track accident, says SMRT'. Print Edition | Subscribe