PUB, LTA form committee to look into tunnel flood prevention

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers working to clear water in the flooded MRT tunnel on Oct 8. PHOTO: SCDF / FACEBOOK
Officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, PUB, Land Transport Authority and SMRT worked through the night on Oct 7 to clear the water in the tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations. PHOTO: LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY
A stalled train in a flooded tunnel between Bishan and Braddell MRT stations, on Oct 7. PHOTO: ST READER
Officers from SCDF, PUB, LTA and SMRT worked through the night Oct 7 to clear the water in the tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations. PHOTO: LTA

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and water agency PUB have formed a standing committee to look into preventing floods in tunnels.

This was announced on Tuesday (Dec 5) by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan.

Speaking at the fifth Joint Forum on Infrastructure Maintenance, Mr Khaw said the new committee will study long-term measures "beyond our generation" and put them in place.

"The PUB/LTA Standing Committee will institutionalise our lessons and hard-earned experiences, lest they disappear with us at the crematorium," he said.

Mr Khaw told the forum that the committee was based on a suggestion from former PUB chairman Tan Gee Paw, who said in an e-mail to the PUB and LTA on Nov 12 that such a committee could meet every six months to "keep track of progress and take up new developments in tunnel flood prevention".

In his e-mail, Mr Tan had noted: "In Taipei, where they have to deal with typhoons, their tunnel portals are protected with sluice gates to completely seal the tunnels against flooding, and of course all rail services are suspended during typhoons.

"We may never experience typhoons but we will experience heavier rainfall periods, as the typhoon belt shifts southwards and we sit at the periphery of these typhoons."

Mr Tan suggested Singapore could follow Taipei's example.

"Perhaps we should at least build in the civil infrastructure to accommodate these sluice gates for new tunnels," said Mr Khaw, quoting Mr Tan.

"Our successors in office who may have to deal with near-typhoon rain conditions decades later will be most grateful to us, as retrofitting the civil works for sluice gates is near impossible for a live line."

Tuesday's announcement comes almost two months after flooding in the MRT tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations on Oct 7 disrupted services on the North-South Line for 20 hours, affecting 250,000 commuters.

On Nov 27, SMRT said that it had found 13 staff responsible for failing to maintain an anti-flooding system, which led to the Oct 7 flooding, causing a major service disruption. Some of the staff were found to have falsified maintenance records.

Eight were sacked, one was demoted, and disciplinary action, which SMRT did not specify, were taken against another two. Two others quit shortly after the incident.

At the forum at the Environment Building in Scotts Road, Mr Khaw said: "The Oct 7 flooding incident will be remembered for a long time; it better be."

He added that the flooding incident was not a failure of engineering, but of organisational management at SMRT.

It throws up other issues: human resource policy, staff rotation, staff supervision, staff engagement and staff motivation, he added.

However, Mr Khaw said he had "full confidence" in SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming, who will make SMRT his top priority.

Said Mr Khaw: "While we are keenly aware of various gaps in SMRT that still are not yet addressed, do appreciate the many tireless but necessary jobs that they have already done and the risks avoided."

He urged the public to offer moral support to SMRT staff "fighting in the trenches".

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