Commuter 'stuck for almost three hours' in train

Mr Ryan Koh was on a train heading home from Clementi to Yew Tee when the disruption occurred, leaving him stuck on the train for three hours, on Oct 14, 2020. PHOTO: RYAN KOH

Finance executive Ryan Koh, 29, spent nearly three hours in a train after a power trip disrupted service along stretches of three MRT lines yesterday.

He was heading home from Clementi to Yew Tee when the power fault occurred.

The train he was on came to a halt inside the tunnel between Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak stations.

"Some lights went out immediately and the train came to a stop slowly. I was expecting a minor delay, but I have been stuck for almost three hours," he said.

When The Straits Times spoke to him around 9pm, he said the majority of people in the train had left after SMRT staff started evacuating commuters around 8pm.

Most remained calm and informed family members about the delay, Mr Koh said.

Senior citizens were asked to move to the back of the train to disembark, he added, estimating that about 70 people were still on the train when SMRT staff stopped evacuating passengers around 9pm due to heavy rain and lightning risk.

He did not manage to leave as "the queue was long and slow".

At about 9.40pm, the staff told commuters to be seated and confirmed that the train would be moving to Bukit Batok.

Mr Koh, who received a voucher for one free train ride, said he was tired and hungry after disembarking. "I just want to go home as soon as possible," he said.

The power fault had disrupted services between Woodlands and Jurong East on the North-South Line, between Gul Circle and Queenstown on the East-West Line, and between HarbourFront and Serangoon on the Circle Line.

Some commuters posted photos on social media of blacked-out stations, including at Yew Tee, Boon Lay and Joo Koon.

Mr Leslie Lim, 23, was withdrawing money at an ATM at Boon Lay station when the power fault occurred. The national serviceman then learnt that commuters were not allowed to enter the station.

He checked SMRT's Twitter account, which told commuters to expect additional travelling time.

This puzzled him, he said, as station staff had informed commuters that train service was not available.

He then took a private-hire ride home to Sengkang - a journey that he said cost him $36 instead of the usual $24, due to surge pricing.

There were around 30 to 40 people who were confused, he added.

He said that safe distancing measures were not enforced amid the chaos. "Some of the staff were busy answering questions such as what buses to take, sometimes surrounded by two to three people," he said.

Shops on the ground floor of Jurong East MRT station were also affected by the power outage.

While the lights outside the shops had come back on, staff at the darkened Mr Bean outlet were using the torchlights from their mobile phones to serve customers.

At 9.30pm, one of its staff members, who wanted to be known only as Madam Chang, 47, told ST that the electricity went off suddenly at about 7pm and had not been restored since.

"We might have to throw all the drinks inside the fridge. The pancakes are all cold already," she said.

Passengers coming down from the train platform in Jurong East station after train services were disrupted because of a power fault on Oct 14, 2020. ST PHOTO: JEAN IAU

Yesterday's breakdown was among the worst power-related faults in recent years.

In July 2017, a power fault caused train services on the North-South and East-West lines to fail late at night.

In April 2016, a power fault triggered an unprecedented breakdown of train services on three MRT lines and one LRT line.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2020, with the headline Commuter 'stuck for almost three hours' in train. Subscribe