The revelations cast a dark shadow over SMRT, raising serious questions about its work culture and internal accountability.
Its group chief executive Desmond Kuek said at a press conference following the tunnel flooding that many of SMRT’s major disruptions in the past “have been attributed in some part, or all, to human error or failure”.
And while progress has been made on inculcating a positive work culture, Mr Kuek on Oct 16 pointed to “deep-seated cultural issues within the company that have needed more time than anticipated to root out“.
Addressing that comment, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament last month that “growing the right culture is the responsibility of everyone – from the top leadership down to the workers”.
After the discovery that maintenance records had been doctored, SMRT offered staff an amnesty period to own up to any lapses in their work, without penalty, before it embarked on a massive audit exercise.
Calling it a rare move, observers said it was SMRT’s way to quickly identify any potential problems that it was not aware of. Some staff from SMRT’s building and facilities department took up the offer and admitted to breaches.
SECOND-EVER TRAIN COLLISION
Still reeling from October’s flooding, SMRT was hit by a second major rail incident on Nov 15, when two trains collided on the westbound tracks at Joo Koon MRT station in the morning.
The accident, which injured 38 people, was the second collision on Singapore’s rail system. In 1993, one train ran into another at Clementi station, injuring 160 passengers.
While the first case was due to an oil spill on the tracks, last month’s accident was caused by compatibility issues between old and new signalling systems used on the East-West Line.
As one train passed a trackside circuit, its protective “bubble” – an invisible barrier in the system to prevent collisions – was removed.
As this train was about to move off from a stationary position at Joo Koon MRT station, a second train behind it failed to recognise its presence, and knocked into it.
The supplier of the new signalling system, French company Thales, has apologised and taken full responsibility for the accident. Thales said that it had operated legacy and new systems on live tracks – like what was happening in Singapore – without incident in other cities.
After the collision, a decision was made to separate the Tuas West Extension, which opened in June and uses a new signalling system, from the rest of the East-West Line, which is in the midst of being upgraded to the new system.
Westbound train commuters will have to get off at Joo Koon MRT station, take a shuttle bus, and then re-board the train at Gul Circle, the first stop on the extension.
To accelerate the completion of the re-signalling project for the entire East-West Line by the middle of next year, instead of next year end, there are now shorter MRT operating hours on stretches of the line during the weekend, to give engineers more time during off-service hours to work.