SMRT faces $1.9 million in fines

A stalled train in a flooded tunnel between Bishan and Braddell MRT stations, on Oct 7, 2017.
A stalled train in a flooded tunnel between Bishan and Braddell MRT stations, on Oct 7, 2017.PHOTO: ST READER

LTA to penalise operator for fatal track accident in 2016 and last October's MRT tunnel flooding

Train operator SMRT faces fines totalling $1.9 million for two incidents: An accident in March 2016 which resulted in the death of two SMRT trainees, and the flooding incident in October last year which disrupted train services for about 231,000 passengers.

In a statement yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that in the 2016 case, investigations found that the SMRT work team had not complied with operating procedures for track access during train service hours.

"These lapses were further compounded by inadequate supervision of MRT operations at the time of the accident," it said, adding that the operator had failed to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of employees.

On March 22, 2016, two SMRT trainees were hit by a train while on the railway tracks investigating a possible signalling fault between Tampines and Pasir Ris stations.

SMRT will be fined $400,000 for this incident. The Manpower Ministry also fined the rail operator the same amount in February last year over the incident.

In the case of last October's flooding incident, LTA's investigations found SMRT fully responsible, as the flooding would have been prevented if the Bishan storm water sump pit and its pumping system had been maintained properly.

The authority said it intended to issue a fine of $1.5 million to SMRT for the incident under the Rapid Transit Systems Act. It considered "all facts and the severity of the incidents" in assessing the penalty amount for each of the two incidents.

"LTA will also consider any other mitigating facts which the operator may raise as part of the due process for the imposition of the financial penalties," it said, adding that the fines collected will go to the Public Transport Fund to help needy families with transport fares.

 
 
 
 

LTA added that last November's collision between two trains at Joo Koon station was due to a problem with the signalling system, and was not caused by SMRT's actions. In response to queries, LTA said it reserved the right to seek compensation for the incident from supplier Thales after the upgrading of the signalling system on the East-West and North-South lines is completed.

This is not the first time the operator has been fined by the regulator. In 2015, it was fined a record $5.4 million for a breakdown that crippled the North-South and East-West lines in the evening peak period.

Mr Yee Chia Hsing, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said: "Such incidents should never have happened, and we owe it to our rail maintenance crew (to make sure) that they are able to do their job without compromising their safety." The Chua Chu Kang GRC MP added that he hoped "whatever lessons SMRT needed to learn have been learnt".

In a statement, SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming apologised, and said the firm is "committed to doing all we can to prevent future incidents from happening".

He noted that the rail operator has implemented various measures to strengthen its systems and processes since the two incidents.

"SMRT has also been working closely with LTA to improve the reliability, maintainability and safety of our MRT network, as well as to enhance network resilience and robustness," he said, adding that trains have been running more smoothly in recent months.

Mr Seah said SMRT is fully committed to providing "safe, secure and reliable" services to commuters.

• Additional reporting by Christopher Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'SMRT faces $1.9 million in fines'. Print Edition | Subscribe