A passenger recalls the harrowing experience of how a Light-Rail Train at the Bukit Panjang LRT line sped past three stations on Thursday (28 July) and could not be stopped by the emergency stop button found in the cabin.
Ms Jacqueline Bong was with her friend when they took the train at Segar Station at about 11.45 pm -12 pm and supposed to alight at Jelapang station to pick up their kids from kindergarten.
However, the train did not stop at the next station but instead, sped up and went past Jelapang station.
While some are puzzled, Ms Bong recalled a similar incident 4-5 years ago and assumed that it would just stop at the next station, Senja.
But it didn’t and continued to move at a faster speed.
Ms Bong was situated in one of the cabins with about twenty passengers with her in the same cabin.
At this point, everyone is at a stage of shock. An uncle tried to use the emergency phone to communicate to the control station, but could not get through.
When her friend failed to stop the train by pressing the emergency button. Ms Bong went to the other side of the cabin to press the emergency button with all her might but the train still did not stop.
“Didn’t the emergency button write that to stop the train, press the emergency stop button?” asked Ms Bong.
Ms Bong said to TOC that everyone was looking out of the cabin to see what is going to happen next.
As the train passed the tight corner between Bukit Panjang station and Phoenix station, the passengers could feel the train being “thrown” to the side due to the momentum of the train.
At this point of time, someone called out that there is another train at the next station, Phoenix. But fortunately, the train was already moving off.
And that’s not the only fortunate thing. The train finally slowed down as it approached the station as a lady, whom Ms Bong was beside, managed to contact the control station on her mobile phone.
When the train stopped at the Phoenix station, no staff was there to check on the passengers.
By the time Ms Bong was back at her home, her body felt tired and was in cold sweat.
She immediately wrote a letter to SMRT, the train operater that manages the Bukit Panjang LRT line.
In her letter, she recounted the incident and asked the following questions:
- Why is the emergency button not working?
- Why no one notices the train moving non-stop till 4th station?
- Why was the emergency phone also not working at that moment?
- Why the train moved non-stop with much faster speed as usual?
- How frequent SMRT checks the emergency button and phone to ensure its functionality?
She also wrote that everyone were so scared especially when they saw another train aheadand that they can’t imagine what will happen if they couldn’t get the train to stop.
When SMRT’s autoresponse email wrote back to Ms Bong that SMRT will take 7 days to get back to her, she went straight to its Facebook page and posted the same message to highlight the matter at 2.28pm on the same day.
SMRT wrote in response to Ms Bong’s message, saying, “we apologise for your experience. Rest assured that we treat this incident seriously and we will investigate it. Thank you.”
Ms Bong has not received any calls or messages from SMRT from Thursday till today (31 July).
TOC spoke to a former engineer from the rail industry about the incident and he said, “Sounds like a control system failure. Since the trains are driverless a central computer controls them all. The fact that the train only slowed down after the phonecall was made reinforces this as this suggests that the staff in the control room in Bukit Panjang Plaza executed the manual override to bring the train under control.”
He added, “If the duty controller didn’t manage to get it under control it could have crashed into the train at Pheonix Station and caused a fatal derailment. ”
When TOC asked if anyone was in the state of mind to take pictures or video of the incident, Ms Bong said, “I doubt so…”
Sequence of events
- Ms Bong and friend boarded the train.
- Train did not stop and continued to accelerate.
- Train moved at high speed even at corner, passengers saw train in next station.
- Train stopped due to call to control station but no staff was at station to greet the passengers.