SMRT says safety procedure to stop train not followed in accident that killed 2 staff at Pasir Ris

The scene of the accident on the train track near Pasir Ris MRT on March 22, 2016.
The scene of the accident on the train track near Pasir Ris MRT on March 22, 2016.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - A safety procedure to bring oncoming trains to a stop when maintenance staff are crossing the trackway did not take place, rail operator SMRT said, a day after two young members of its staff were hit and killed by a train at Pasir Ris MRT station. 

In a press release on Wednesday evening (March 23), SMRT said staff who are crossing the tracks must coordinate with a signal unit at the station for oncoming trains to be brought to a stop and to ensure that no trains enter the affected sector. 

“Our records do not show that this procedure took place,” SMRT said of the incident.

Releasing its findings from an ongoing investigation, the rail operator said that when the train captain saw Singaporeans Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, on the track, he applied the emergency brakes but was unable to prevent the accident.

"We take responsibility and apologise for the tragic accident. We express our deepest condolences to the families of Nasrulhudin and Muhammad Asyraf in their time of grief," the statement added.

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

 
 
 
 

The rail operator said that the sequence of events are as follows:

-At 8.08am on Tuesday, a signalling condition monitoring device installed along the tracks near Pasir Ris MRT station registered a warning.

-At 10.54am, authorisation was granted for the permanent way team and the signal team to move down from the station platform, cross the track, and access the maintenance walkway to go to the device. An average of two to three such authorisations are given each day.

-The 15-member team comprised an engineer, five assistant engineers, five technical officers and four trainees. Led by an experienced assistant engineer, they moved in a single file along the 50cm-wide maintenance walkway beside the track toward the device, following the safety procedure of walking in the direction facing oncoming train traffic. Mr Nasrulhudin and Mr Asyraf were immediately behind the lead assistant engineer.

-Before the team is allowed to step back on to the trackway, it 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. "Our records do not show that this procedure took place," SMRT said.

-The oncoming train, moving in automatic mode, was routed to the station's Platform 2. As Pasir Ris MRT station is a terminal station with two platforms, trains arriving can berth at either, and can cross from one track to the other as they approach the station. 

-When the train captain saw staff on the track, he immediately applied the emergency brakes, but was unable to prevent the accident, which occurred at 11.08am and was immediately reported to the operations control centre.

It was the first fatality involving SMRT staff that has happened on the North-South or East-West lines, the rail operator said.

It added: "We are continuing to support the police and the Ministry of Manpower in their ongoing investigations."

The two men killed had joined SMRT in January and were doing their on-the-job training. It was Mr Asyraf's first time doing hands-on work in the field.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong offered his condolences to the two families. He said: "We understand that faults and malfunctions do happen in our train system, and generally take them in our stride. But it is different when two young men lose their lives in a workplace accident."

He added: "Whether it turns out to be an unforeseeable mishap, an individual lapse or a system problem, we must do our best to ensure this does not happen again."