Parliament: Rise in cable cut incidents due to increased road works, poor due diligence

Road works being carried out along Upper Thomson Road on July 9, 2014.
Road works being carried out along Upper Thomson Road on July 9, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The rise in cable cut incidents over the past three years were caused by more road works and construction projects across Singapore, as well as contractors failing to exercise due diligence and caution during these works.

This is according to Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who was speaking in Parliament on Monday (Feb 29).

Answering a question posed by Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) on the frequency of such incidents, Dr Yaacob noted that the number of such incidents has grown steadily over the years, from four each in 2013 and 2014, and seven in 2015.

"In 2016, there have already been three such incidents," he said.

Some 2,000 households in the Sengkang area were affected by a fibre cut in the early hours of Jan 22 when a contractor of national water agency PUB was carrying out drainage and sewage works along the Central Expressway and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 junction areas.

A fibre optic cable cut in the Commonwealth and Ghim Moh areas on Feb 17 at around 4pm brought down Internet connection for households in the vicinity.

"All 18 cable cuts from 2013 onwards were caused by third-party contractors involved in the construction of new MRT lines such as the Downtown Line and Thomson East-Coast Line, power cabling, water and sewage piping works and other development projects," he said.

Investigations by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) showed that these cable cuts were due to contractors not exercising due diligence and caution when undertaking road works and construction projects.

They also did not comply with standard operating procedures, such as verifying the location of telecommunication cables before starting earthworks or protecting underground cables when the works were carried out.

Contractors who damage such telecommunication cables may be fined up to $1 million and imprisoned for five years. IDA has previously prosecuted errant parties in court, which imposed penalties ranging from $60,000 to $570,000.

Dr Yaacob said IDA is working closely with public agencies and telecom operators on preventive measures.

The agency has also directed all telcos to indicate global positioning system geographical coordinates for new deployments of telecommunication cables and manholes on their service plans and to install metallic tracer wires along new underground optical fibre cables.

Telecom operators also advise contractors on the type of earthworks to be avoided and additional procedures to adhere to before and during earthworks, such as digging "trial holes" to locate cables in the area.