Transcript of SMRT’s address to media on 22 March’s fatal accident

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek (DK): We are investigating exactly how they got hit by the train. What we know is that they were walking along in a single file along the side, along the walkway. They were the number two and the number three; the supervisor was in front of them and exactly how they got onto the track or got close enough to the oncoming train that was moving in the direction opposite to them is the issue that we are trying to establish with the witnesses that we are trying to get detailed accounts from.

Reporter (R): How many were there?

DK: We had fifteen people in this team. They comprised the permanent way team as well as the signalling team because the fault that was uncovered, we were trying to establish whether it was a permanent way track fault or a signalling fault, and so the team comprised both. And these two who died in the incident were trainees on the job training as part of their training routine.

R: All fifteen were walking on the track?

DK: All fifteen were walking on the trackway.

R: Why were they doing work while the trains were in service?

DK: This is standard. Whenever there is a track fault, regardless whether it is revenue service or during engineering hours, we have to investigate every fault.

R: So what was the standard operating procedure when going down on the track?

SMRT Trains Managing Director Lee Ling Wee (LLW): Normally when that happens, there is a track access to request for authorisation from the Operations Control Centre (OCC), and upon approval given, we will then proceed to the trackway. In this instance, that was given and then the power was supposed to be switched off when they reached the location but an unfortunate accident happened before they actually reached the site where they were supposed to do their investigation. There are still rules, safety measures that are preserved, that are put down, and all, whether they are trainees or they are permanent staff, they are trained on all safety issues before they report to the track. They asked for permission to go onto the track, permission from OCC to access the track, and they are in constant communication with OCC. Permission had been given for them go down on the track and to be walking in a single file towards the location. When they reached the location, they are supposed to ask for second permission but the accident happened before they reached.

R: Why is second permission needed?

LLW: The second permission is to trigger power off. But the accident happened before they reached.

R: So the two were struck by a train before power off?

LLW: Yes.

R: The train, was it driven or was it on auto mode?

LLW: The train was driven by a train captain but was on auto mode.

R: The train was in which direction?

LLW: Towards the direction of Pasir Ris, and it was the opposite direction from where they were travelling, where they were walking.

R: So it came in on them?

LLW: The rule is they’re supposed to walk in the direction of the – against the direction of the train. That is what they’re supposed to do.

R: So just to clarify: the train was going towards Pasir Ris.

LLW: The train was going towards Pasir Ris, yes. And they were walking against the direction of the train, which is what they’re supposed to do.

R: How many passengers were on the train?

LLW: I can’t remember; I think it’s in the order of 35 passengers on the train at that point in time the train captain reported that he did something.

R: Was there no one else injured?

LLW: There’s no other injuries besides these two staff.

R: Is it proper for new staff to go down onto the track?

LLW: After the proper training has been given, safety brief done, it is alright for him to access the track.

R: How many of them were walking in that single file?

LLW: Fifteen of them were walking in a single file. The location is about – where the accident happened is about 150 metres away from the station, from Pasir Ris.

R: How serious was the incident?

LLW: It wasn’t a fault, it was an alarm that was triggered by the sensors that we have installed at all point machines. There are 150 point machines in the network, and in recent months, we’ve started to install a condition monitoring device on all these systems, and basically it measures the amount of energy that’s needed to move the track, to move the point, and the high current needed to move the point means that there could be something happening, but not yet. So it is part of our initiative to do preventive details.

DK: The supervisor was in front of the two of them and there were many of the others, as you’ve heard, in the party of fifteen, that were following behind him. So, exactly how it is that they were hit by an oncoming train when there was a clear line of sight, when there was a supervisor ahead of them, is the subject of investigation. To do so, get access to the track while service is on is to walk the side with supervision and control from the Operations Control Centre with all the safety permissions granted. And this is a controlled and supervised activity.

R: And how long does it take from when they start the joinery out to when they reached the place to get second permission?

LLW: The location of the point machine is about 200 metres away.

R: So how long will that take?

DK: It depends on the distance.

LLW: 200 metres, we estimate from there. They were almost there, just 150 metres away. They would have walked 150 metres.

DK: So as what was described, the second permission had not been asked for yet when the accident took place.

R: Only two people got hurt out of all of them. How did only two people get hurt?

DK: That’s exactly what we’re trying to establish, why did the two get hit by the train is what we’re trying to establish.

R: How fast was the train coming along?

DK: The train is on auto mode, so it’s about 60 kilometres per hour.

R: It just left the station?

LLW: No, it’s coming to the station, coming into the station.

R: The train was travelling towards Pasir Ris MRT station; is it from Tampines to Pasir Ris?

LLW: Pasir Ris is the end station, the last station.

R: So is it from Tampines MRT to Pasir Ris?

LLW: Yes.

R: What are the dimensions of the walkway they were on?

DK: I will give you the number.

LLW: We will give you the number.

R: So it actually splits up, the one track splits up to two at the track there; I saw people carry bodies from both sides, how come this was so?

DK: You’re talking about what happened after? That’s recovery process, so it’s not a question of which direction. It’s just simply recovering the bodies from the scene.

LLW: Remember the train services had stopped for us to recover the situation.

R: So was it on the left side of the track or the right side of the track?

DK: Depends on which side of the track you’re looking at.

LLW: Depends on which way you’re looking at.

R: So how is the train captain now, how is the driver now, is anything, is any assistance provided?

LLW: We provide counselling to all the staff directly involved, including counselling to overcome their grief